Tennessee vs. Arizona Prediction: Will the Wildcats Remain Unbeaten?

College basketball expert Mike Spector gives his prediction for the highly anticipated Tennessee Volunteers vs. Arizona Wildcats matchup Wednesday night.
Mike Spector |
Wed, December 22, 10:25 AM EST | 5 min read
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Tennessee vs. Arizona Prediction: Will the Wildcats Remain Unbeaten?

With many college basketball teams already on break for the holidays, we are treated to one of two ranked vs. ranked matchups this week as the No. 6 Arizona Wildcats travel to Knoxville to take on the No. 19 Tennessee Volunteers tonight. Arizona is one of six remaining unbeaten left in the country. Will their record remain unblemished, or will Tennessee hand them their first loss?

Tennessee vs. Arizona Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Tuesday, December 22, 2021

Game Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Where To Watch: ESPN2

Click Here For Tennessee vs Arizona Odds

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Tennessee vs. Arizona Prediction

Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd has to be the frontrunner for the early season Coach of the Year award for the job he has done with the Wildcats to this point. Arizona has two huge non-conference wins at Illinois and a neutral site against Michigan and has beaten eight other opponents by at least 24 points. 

The Wildcats' massive frontcourt has been impossible for teams to contend with. Arizona has three players (Azuolas Tubelis, Christian Koloko, Oumar Ballo) 6'11" or taller in their regular rotation. Their size is the main reason the Wildcats are the country's best defensive team inside the arc, allowing opponents to make just 38.8% of their two-point shots.

Tennessee is 8-2, with two losses on neutral courts against Villanova and Texas Tech. The Volunteers' biggest win is a 17-point victory over North Carolina, and they also won on the road at Colorado. Like Arizona, Tennessee is also a solid defensive team, ranking second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. The Volunteers rank 17th in two-point percentage allowed (42.7%), and their quick and active hands force turnovers at the 13th highest rate (25.4% of opponents' possessions).

Given that Arizona plays at the third-fastest adjusted tempo in the country, it is easy to see why the over has cashed in eight of their first 11 games, including both games as road favorites. The Wildcats have scored at least 80 points in every game and have topped 100 points on three occasions. However, this Tennessee team is the best defensive team the Wildcats have faced this season and will thus result in their first game scoring fewer than 80 points.

Arizona has four freshmen in their starting lineup, and three are guards. For as well as Kerr Kriisa, Dalen Terry, and Bennedict Mathurin have played to this point, they have not faced the pressure that Tennessee's guards will apply. Thus, we expect some regression from a turnover perspective for Arizona, who have committed turnovers on just 16.4% of possessions this year.

Conversely, Tennessee's leading scorer, Kennedy Chandler (14.6 PPG), has struggled against elite competition. Against Villanova and Texas Tech, Chandler was a combined 5-for-22 from the field and scored 15 combined points. When Chandler is not firing on all cylinders, this offense struggles mightily. Thus, we expect Lloyd to either use the length of 6'7" Terry or 6'6" Mathurin to bother Chandler and make one of Tennessee's less-heralded players beat them consistently.

Each team has massive games awaiting them after the holidays, as Tennessee heads to Alabama while Arizona faces UCLA and USC in back-to-back games. With their minds wandering to the holiday break and with games against the best competition in their conference looming, we expect a lack of focus offensively to result in a low-scoring game.

Like Arizona, Tennessee has been profitable to the over with a 4-2 O/U record in their six home games. Thus, we like the contrarian nature of this play on the total. 

Tennessee vs. Arizona Pick

Mike Spector
@MikeSpector01

Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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