Tennessee Volunteers vs Mississippi State preview, odds, and predictions

Tennessee basketball will face Mississippi State in their first SEC Tournament game, looking to give the Bulldogs some payback for handing the Vols their first SEC loss.

Jan 17, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Zakai Zeigler (5) dribbles as
Jan 17, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Zakai Zeigler (5) dribbles as / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN. 24-7, 14-4. 534. 20-12, 8-10. 530. Friday, March 15. UT vs Miss St 03/14. . 1:00 PM ET

Tennessee basketball is preparing to debut in the SEC Tournament in a matchup against Mississippi State in the quarterfinal round. The Bulldogs beat the Vols in early January 77-72 at The Hump.

This will be the fourth time Tennessee has started its SEC Tournament against Mississippi State since 2018. The Vols made the championship game in each of the past three tournaments they played Mississippi State first.

Tennessee comes into this game as 9.5-point favorites, according to Fanduel. The over/under currently sits at 142.5 at the time I am writing this article. This means Vegas is expecting a game similar to the last time these two teams met in January.

Dalton Knecht will be the center of attention for the Vols as the SEC Player of the Year and candidate for National Player of the Year honors. Knecht scored 28 points in the Vols' first matchup against Mississippi State and will look to continue his success against SEC opponents throughout the conference tournament.

Another player we should watch is the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Zakai Zeigler. Not only is he known for his stellar defensive play, but he also had a dominant game against Mississippi State. Ziegler scored 26 points on top of his three steals, one block, and seven assists.

Besides Zeigler and Knecht, only one other Vol scored five or more points in their first matchup, Jonas Aidoo, who scored nine points. Aidoo and Tobe Awaka have matured in their role as Tennessee's big men throughout conference play and pose a much bigger threat on both ends of the court for the Vols.

If Tennessee gets the job done in the quarterfinal round against Mississippi State, it will take a full team effort on both ends of the court. The Vols can't rely on Knecht to score 40 points to win or Zeigler to shut down the Bulldogs offense single-handily.

The Vols need to continue producing offensive and defensive efficiency in the paint and impose their physical play early to test Mississippi State's physicality and grit. Forcing the Bulldogs to play through contact can be a key to success for Tennessee.

We've seen the Vols play tough, physical opponents and play through contact. We know they can be the tougher team on the court, no matter their opponent. We also know that can result in foul trouble. This can force the Vols to play a style of basketball they are not particularly used to because they are down one or multiple players.

Rick Barnes needs to emphasize staying out of foul trouble. The last thing Tennessee needs is to be handicapped against a team that already has a tournament win and is looking to upset the Vols again.

Next. Tennessee all-time SEC Tournament single-game scoring record. Tennessee all-time SEC Tournament single-game scoring record. dark

The Vols will look to continue their SEC success on Friday to start SEC Tournament play. There is a spot in the semifinal game on the line for the Vols as they battle for an SEC Tournament Championship and a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament.