South Carolina vs. Tennessee prediction: College basketball odds, picks, best bets
The SEC might be the most talented conference in college basketball this year.
Kentucky and Auburn are legit Final Four contenders. Alabamas defese is trending up, and its offense is as explosive as ever behind Mark Sears.
Tennessee is arguably the best team in the conference, while South Carolina is arguably the most improved team behind first-year head coach Lamont Paris.
The two meet in Knoxville on Tuesday night, with the Volunteers laying two touchdowns at home.
I cant make a wager on the side here, but Im betting the total is a tad low I think we could get a sneaky high-scoring game here.
South Carolina vs. Tennessee prediction
(6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Volunteers have one path to points: Get the ball to Dalton Knecht and get out of the way.
The Northern Colorado transfer is among the favorites for SEC Player of the Year. Hes averaging 20 points per game and has scored more than 25 in five straight, peaking with a 39-point effort against Florida.
Hes a sparkplug three-level scorer with a deep bag and a smooth stroke. He can score from any area of the floor, and hes been doing just that all year.
Dalton Knecht in the 2nd half = definition of clutch. #Volspic.twitter.com/8u6RpoRsSc
— Sam Rothman (@samrothman_) January 28, 2024The Vols mainly run secondary flex-motion actions to get Knecht into space, which means a high rate of off-ball screens and cuts.
Can the Gamecocks stop that?
Its tough to answer that question.
The Cocks run a drop-coverage defensive scheme that overplays ball-handlers and wings on the perimeter, funneling them toward an excellent rim protector in BJ Mack. Opposing ball-handlers are often scared to attack Mack, resulting in an awkward, inefficient mid-range jumper.
So, Knecht and the Vols likely wont see much success shooting 3s or cutting to the rim, but drop-coverage defenses are susceptible to two things, off-ball screeners and mid-range sharpshooters.
The Vols happen to have both in Knecht. He should find space in the middle of the floor on secondary actions, and hes happy to score in the mid-range over the drop on every possession.
Given the way hes running, I expect every shot to drop.
the craziest part of the Dalton Knecht experience is not all the threes or the dunks or the layups for me but that he ISOs himself into a super-contested midrange jumper and I'm instantly like "well that's going in". Not Normal pic.twitter.com/Ox82RP89kd
— Will Warren (@statsbywill) January 28, 2024On the other end of the court, the Gamecocks run a similar motion-based offensive scheme. They try to invert the floor with off-ball zoom and swing actions, leveraging stretch five Macks shooting ability (career 35% 3-point shooter) to space the floor and find cutters behind the defenders.
Tennessees defense is tough to crack, but the Vols are strongest at defending on-ball, specifically against ball screens and isolation creators.
But they are closer to average than excellent at defending secondary actions. And if Mack can pull Tennessee center Jonas Aidoo away from the rim, the Cocks should score through wide spacing, crisp passing and shooting.
South Carolina guard Jacobi Wright shoots against Kentucky. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConFor example, the Vols rank 230th nationally in 3-point rate allowed, while the Gamecocks rank 50th in 3-point rate. You can shoot on Tennesseee, and I expect South Carolina to do precisely that.
Im worried about the games projected tempo, as the Gamecocks run at an uber-slow pace, and both teams viciously deny transition opportunities.
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But I like the half-court schematic matchup for both offenses, and I think the Vols and Gamecocks can make a high percentage of their first-shot opportunities.
ShotQualityBets projects over 140 points in this one, so I think theres good value on the over 135.5 available at FanDuel.
South Carolina vs. Tennessee pick
Over 135.5 (-115) at FanDuel | Play to 137 (-110)
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