NCAA Saturday Night Basketball: Kansas/Tennessee Preview

by Big Al Staff

The highest-profile matchup in the Big 12/SEC Challenge tips off at 6 PM ET on ESPN. Kansas ranks 15th in the nation in the Associated Press poll, while Tennessee ranks 18th by the AP.

Kansas was at one time ranked third in the nation by the AP. Then three losses on the road this month at Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Oklahoma left Bill Self’s team with a 10-5 record. The Jayhawks returned home to Lawrence on Thursday to defeat TCU by a 59-51 score as a 14-point favorite. Kansas trailed by a 33-26 score with under 17 minutes to go in the second half before rallying to outscore the Horned Frogs by a 33-18 margin to pull the victory. The Jayhawks are fifth in the Big 12 with a 5-4 conference record.

Kansas is led in scoring by Ochai Agbaji with his 14.4 points-per-game average. Jalen Wilson is second on the team with a 12.3 points-per-game scoring average. David McCormack is adding 11.7 points-per-game while pulling down 5.6 rebounds-per-game.

The Jayhawks can struggle to score baskets. Their 48.8% shooting percentage inside the arc this season is 217th in the nation. The kenpom adjusted offensive efficiency numbers still rank the Jayhawks 33rd in the nation. They pull down 32.4% of their misses, 58th best in the country. They rank 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency, with their interior defense leading the way. Kansas leads the Big 12 by holding their opponents to just 45.0% shooting inside the arc.

Kansas has quality victories against Creighton, West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. Their other two losses were their opening game loss to number-one ranked Gonzaga as well as Texas.

Tennessee ended a two-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 56-53 victory against Mississippi State as a 9.5-point favorite. That win did continue a disturbing trend for head coach Rick Barnes with the Volunteers making only 37.0% of their shots. Barnes did get Jaden Springer back on the court Vader he missed the previous two loss with an ankle injury. Springer scored 9 points while adding five assists and four rebounds in the win.

The Volunteers went into last week with a 10-1 record. They suffered an embarrassing 75-49 loss at Florida before returning home last Saturday to get upset again by Missouri, 73-64. Tennessee was a 7.5 and 6.5 point favorite in both games but only shot 29.3% and then 43.7% from the field in those two upset losses. In their last three games, the Vols have not scored more than 64 points and have not made more than 43.7% of their shots. They rank 294th with a 31.9% shooting percentage from 3-point land.

Tennessee hits the offensive glass like the Jayhawks as they share their 32.4% offensive rebounding rate. The Vols also get to the free-throw line at the second-highest rate in the SEC. Yet the Volunteers make only 65.4% of their shots at the charity stripe.

The Vols are 70th at kenpom in adjusted offensive efficiency. Barnes’ team excels on the other end of the court, where they rank second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Tennessee forces turnovers in 24.7% of their opponent’s possessions, 10th best. They hold their opponents to only 59.3 points-per-game.

Tennessee is 5-3 in conference play. Their third loss was to Alabama. The Volunteers have quality victories against Arkansas and Missouri in the SEC and a win against Creighton in non-conference action.

BetAnySports lists Tennessee as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 130.5.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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