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Tennessee at Missouri Preview

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The Vols look for their first two game winning streak in league play in a win to keep the Vols in a crowded pack for the NIT chase.

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to three straight wins from Alabama and three straight losses from Texas A&M, the SEC has its top 11 teams all between 8-3 and 5-6.  There's a larger truth in parity here this college basketball season:  on February 13, not only do we not have an undefeated team like we did last year, but no major conference team has less than three losses.  The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac 12 have eight or nine teams within three games of the conference lead, but the SEC leads the way in competitiveness at the moment.

At the other end of the spectrum is Missouri.  The Tigers have self-imposed a postseason ban, which takes them out of SEC Tournament play and has left them with nothing to play for, and it's shown.  They beat Auburn on January 9, but have lost nine in a row since.  Their 10 SEC losses have come by an average of 15.1 points; 10 days ago they lost by only three to Ole Miss, but have come no closer than nine against anyone else in the last three weeks.

The Tigers shoot just 38.5% in conference play and give up 46.5%, ranking next to last and last in the league, respectively.  They're also last in the league in three point percentage.  The one place they can be dangerous is at the free throw line, shooting 73.2% in league play to trail only Tennessee's 80.7%.

For the Vols and for any thoughts of getting to the NIT and staying in this crowded SEC field, this is one they have to have.  Tennessee is yet to put together consecutive wins in league play.  To have the conversation we want to have about the six games after this one being meaningful, the Vols have to get this one first.

3:00 PM, SEC Network.  Go Vols.