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College basketball expert Mike Spector gives his prediction for the highly anticipated Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide matchup Wednesday night.
ANALYSIS

Alabama vs. Tennessee Prediction: Are Points at a Premium in This SEC Clash?

Tonight's battle between the Tennessee Volunteers and Alabama Crimson Tide is a matchup of two of the SEC's best teams. Each team is battle-tested and has proven they can beat the best teams in the country, as they both have wins over top-ten teams. But, will Tennessee be able to handle a challenging road environment in just their second road game and hand Alabama their first home loss?

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

Date: Tuesday, December 28

Game Time: 9:00 pm ET

Where to Watch: ESPN2

Alabama vs. Tennessee Odds

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Alabama vs. Tennessee Prediction

Tennessee has won three straight games since their overtime loss at Madison Square Garden to Texas Tech, and their last win was their most impressive of the season to this point. The Volunteers never trailed against then-No. 6-ranked Arizona and withstood a furious late rally after building an early 15-point lead. Tennessee is the second-best defensive team in the country, per KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric. They are a disruptive team with active hands in passing lanes, forcing turnovers on 25.1% of opponents' possessions (14th-most in the country). In addition, they have elite rim protectors and have blocked 16.7% of opponents' shots (11th-best of 358 Division I teams).

While Tennessee's calling card is defense, Alabama is off to a 9-3 start on the strength of an offense that is ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency and makes its two-point shots at the fifth-highest clip in the country (58.6%). Alabama plays at a 33rd-fastest tempo in the country, and they prefer quick-hitting offensive sets, as their 15.3-second average possession length is the 12th shortest in the country. 

For as well as the Crimson Tide have played this season, they have sputtered a bit of late, losing two of their last three games to Memphis and Davidson. The Memphis loss is excusable since it was their first true road game. Also, they should not be penalized for the Davidson loss as they scheduled the Wildcats on a quick turnaround (three days after their last game), which is not a lot of time to prepare for an offense as complex as the Wildcats'.

However, without certainty of which Alabama team will show up in this matchup or how a young Tennessee squad will handle their first road test in conference play, we turn our attention to the total. The best way to slow down Alabama's potent attack is to limit their ability to score in transition, as Iona and Davidson did so well. The Volunteers are an elite defensive transition team and are difficult to score against in the half-court, as they have held six of their last seven opponents to fewer than 70 points. Their best defensive effort of the season was against Arizona, who had scored at least 80 points in every game leading up to their matchup. Instead, Tennessee forced 17 Arizona turnovers and held the Wildcats to 33.3% 3-point shooting on 27 attempts.

Alabama has had their share of turnover issues, as they have coughed the ball up on 17.2% of their possessions (ranks 273rd in the country). That spells trouble against Tennessee's pesky defense. Also, the Volunteers are an outstanding rebounding team and will limit Alabama's second-chance opportunities, which they rely on for a lot of offense.

The under is 5-1 in Tennessee's last six games and is 8-3 in their previous 11 road games. In addition, Rick Barnes' team tends to lock in defensively against elite competition, as the under has cashed in each of their last five games against teams with winning percentages greater than .600. In addition, Tennessee's young backcourt may struggle offensively in their second road game of the season, but their defense will be sure to travel.

Alabama vs. Tennessee Pick

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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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