The first test (that counts) has arrived for Tennessee basketball. The Volunteers hit the road tonight to face Wisconsin, a team looking to rebound from an NIT appearance last season. Greg Gard brings back the bulk of his team, and he’ll be looking to make a statement tonight.
The Badgers got off to a hot start this week, beating Arkansas State 105-76. It was more of an uptempo approach from Wisconsin, which averaged just 65 points last year. Gard is hoping that his team’s continuity will lead to more offense this season.
However, he runs into what will surely be one of the best defenses in the country tonight. Rick Barnes also brings back most of his core, and he’s added a handful of pieces to his roster that could make them contenders for the National Championship. They won on the road a couple of weeks ago at Michigan State in exhibition play — can they do it again here when it counts?
Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Tennessee is just a two point favorite.
Wisconsin was picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten. Tennessee was picked to win the SEC. Kenpom has Tennessee ranked 9th, while Wisconsin checks in at 16. This looks to be a pretty even matchup overall, but you have to like Tennessee’s experience going on the road.
The wildcard might just be the health of point guard Zakai Zeigler though, who will be limited as he continues to work back to full strength from a torn ACL. That, plus the chemistry that’s still being built with the additions of Dalton Knecht and Jordan Gainey, might go a long way in determining an outcome tonight.
Tennessee vs. Wisconsin: How to watch
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Time: 9 p.m. ET