Tennessee vs. Alabama NCAA Basketball Preview and Best Bet

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John Fulkerson #10 of the Tennessee Volunteers. Dustin Satloff/Getty Images/AFP

Terrific college basketball matchup from the SEC on Wednesday – please be played! – as No. 14 Tennessee visits No. 19 Alabama. Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks?  

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Wednesday, December 29, 2021 – 09:00 PM EST at Coleman Coliseum 

At this point, it’s anyone's guess whether any certain college basketball game will be played on a given night and it probably will stay this way through a few weeks as COVID cases will pick up during the holidays and there will be more positive tests when college kids return to campuses. 

That said, arguably the marquee matchup in the sport Wednesday is No. 14 Tennessee at No. 19 Alabama. Both are certainly good enough to win the SEC title. The Tide are +320 second-favorites at BMR’s top-rated books behind Kentucky (+260) and the Vols are +600 third-favorites. 

Wednesday is the only scheduled meeting of the season, although obviously, the SEC Tournament is possible. Last season, they played twice with the Tide winning 71-63 in Knoxville and then 73-68 in the SEC Tournament semifinals. In that latter game, Alabama rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit. 

The underdog is 4-1 in the NCAAB odds in the past five meetings. Alabama leads all-time 81-70.  

UT’s Fulkerson to Set School Record 

The Vols (9-2) haven’t played since knocking off No. 6 Arizona, which had been unbeaten, 77-73 last Wednesday to improve to 7-0 at home. In his 142nd career game for Tennessee, which tied a school record for the most, sixth-year senior John Fulkerson had a season-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds. Rather amazingly, he also had a triple-double of sorts in drawing a whopping 13 fouls. 

Fulkerson obviously will set the school mark with 143 games on Wednesday. The SEC record for career games played is 152, held by Kentucky's Darius Miller (2008-12). 

Santiago Vescovi scored 12 of his 15 points during the second half vs. Arizona and Justin Powell finished with 11 points, including a free throw in the final seconds to make it a two-possession game and clinch. Powell has just three turnovers all season. 

It was Tennessee’ sixth win over a Top-10 team during the Rick Barnes era, and the first since a win at No. 6 Kentucky on March 3, 2020. Barnes was an assistant coach at Alabama during the 1985-86 season. 

The Vols rank among the nation’s top 10 in turnover margin (+6.8, 5th), assist/turnover ratio (+1.71, 6th), and assists per game (18.6 APG, 8th). Superstar freshman Kennedy Chandler has scored or assisted on 33.6 percent of Tennessee's points this season. His 5.3 assists per game are second among all freshmen and he leads the team in scoring as well at 14.0 PPG.  

This is UT’s SEC opener and the Vols are 3-3 in those under Barnes. However, the Vols have struggled away from home this season, averaging just 65.8 points per game and shooting 23.4 percent from deep. UT is 2-5 ATS on the NCAAB picks in its past seven road games vs. teams with a winning home record.  

Alabama Coming Off Upset Loss 

Alabama (9-3) has been off since being upset by a very good Davidson team 79-78 last Tuesday at a neutral site in Birmingham. The Wildcats took a 13-point lead early in the second half and held on. The Tide’s Jahvon Quinerly missed a potential tying free throw with four seconds left. Davidson established Alabama opponent highs in assists (22), three-pointers made (12), three-point field goal percentage (50.0), and overall field goal percentage (53.4). 

"Our offense wasn't bad, but we really lost the game on the defensive end," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "I don't know how many wake-up calls we're going to need to pick up the defense, but we're not going to be able to win games in the SEC on a high level until we decide we're going to guard much better.” 

This is also Alabama’s SEC opener and will mark the first time the Tide will play a league opener in which both UA and its opponent are ranked among the AP Top 25 since January 5th, 1973, against Vanderbilt. The Tide have won 16 consecutive games inside Coleman Coliseum, the longest since a school-record streak of 24 in a row from March 2020 through December 2011.  

Led by Jaden Shackelford (16.8 PPG), Quinerly (14.7), and Keon Ellis (12.4 PPG), Alabama is No. 2 in the SEC and No. 15 in the nation in scoring offense at 82.9 points per game. UA also leads the SEC and is ranked 20th in the nation in three-pointers attempted (353), No. 30 in three-pointers made per game (9.9), and No. 37 in three-pointers made (119). 

Tennessee and Alabama don't have any common opponents this season, but this is a matchup where I’d simply pick the home team. UT has lost four of its past six at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama is 9-3 ATS on the NCAAB odds in its past 12 Wednesday games.  

NCAAB Pick: Alabama -3 (-112) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Alabama -3 (-112)
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