Tennessee is set for conference play tonight, and they’ll open on the road at Ole Miss. The Volunteers finished up the non-conference slate with a 10-2 mark, picking up the Battle 4 Atlantis title, along with a nice neutral site win over Maryland.
Per KenPom, Tennessee has the top rated defense in the country, providing the Volunteers with a calling card entering SEC play. Tennessee is the gambling favorite to win the regular season SEC crown, checking in with +220 odds, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas follow closely behind.
The Volunteers will head to Oxford tonight to get things going, set to face the 8-4 Rebels. Ole Miss enters conference play on a cold snap, dropping four of their last six games. Oklahoma, Memphis, UCF and North Alabama have all beaten the Rebels over the last few weeks, leaving Kermit Davis searching for answers with January on the horizon.
Ole Miss does catch Tennessee at an interesting time, however. This week after Christmas and before the new year is always tricky, considering you’ve got players traveling away from campus. They’re out of the usual routine, and that dynamic has Rick Barnes’ attention entering this one.
“The fact is, you’re always concerned coming back after Christmas,” Barnes said. “You always are. Even though, I think our guys were gone what, two and a half, three days. We weren’t very sharp yesterday in practice the way we should be, especially with the group we have right now.”
Ole Miss took Tennessee to overtime last season at Thompson-Boling Arena, but the Volunteers were able to escape with a win. Oxford has always been dicey for Tennessee — it always seems to turn into nail-biter for whatever reason. Tennessee dropped one of those nail-biters in 2021, and won in 2018 and 2019 by just a combined ten points.
Ahead of this year’s matchup, Barnes previewed what Kermit Davis is going to throw at the Volunteers.
“He’ll play man-to-man, they can get after you,” Barnes said. “They’re an athletic team. He’ll throw is 1-3-1 out there where if you get it done, it’ll morph into a 2-3. He likes that and he’ll stay in it as long as he thinks you can’t handle it. He combines that with great offensive concepts. He really does a good job getting the guys he wants shots, shots, to where they need to have them. They rebound. They really rebound the basketball. Offensively, they go probably harder than anybody we’ve played up to this point consistently. They do a great job with getting their misses.”
Ole Miss is anchored by junior guard Matthew Murrell, who averages over 15 points per game. The 6-4, 200 pound guard has scored over 20 points in two of his last three games. He’ll have Tennessee’s full attention tonight.
Tennessee is favored by 7.5 points tonight, per DraftKings Sportsbook.
How to watch
Location: Oxford, Mississippi
Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Streaming: Watch ESPN, ESPN App