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Tennessee opens as big road favorites over South Carolina

Tough test tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee hops back into SEC play tonight after a one game break for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, making the trip down to South Carolina (full preview here). While Ole Miss may be the surprise of the league to this point, the Gamecocks are a close second in that category.

Frank Martin’s team had a rough start in non-conference play, but the light has come on since conference play began. South Carolina sits at just 10-9 overall, but they’ve been able to assemble a 5-1 start to SEC play, knocking off Auburn, Florida and Mississippi State so far.

“I can tell you going into South Carolina, it wouldn’t matter if we were ranked or not ranked, Frank Martin’s teams are gonna get after it,” Rick Barnes said on Monday. “They’re gonna play hard.”

It’s a tricky game, considering what South Carolina has accomplished over the last three weeks and how erratic the Vols have played in spurts.

Despite that, the oddsmakers out in Vegas have placed Tennessee as nine point favorites for Tuesday night’s contest. That number has come down to -8.5 in some spots. The opening total of 156 has been pushed down to 154.

Life on the road in the SEC has turned out to be pretty tough over the last couple of seasons. It seems to be tougher against a Frank Martin coached team. Tennessee is plenty good enough to win comfortably, but they can’t afford a start like they had on Saturday against West Virginia.