Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Tennessee Volunteers Pick & Prediction JANUARY 27th 2024

College basketball is a totally unpredictable sport. If you don’t believe that sentence, just look at all the chaos in the top 10 this month.

No. 5 Tennessee appears to be one lock to keep its recent roll going late Saturday when it makes the bus ride to Nashville for a Southeastern Conference contest versus struggling Vanderbilt.

While the Volunteers (14-4, 4-1 SEC) boast an elite defense and a two-time winner of the conference’s Player of the Week award in sizzling scorer Dalton Knecht, the Commodores (5-13, 0-5) have lost five straight and nine of the last 10.

Tennessee has the benefit of rest to fine-tune after one of its best games of the season, a 91-71 thumping of Alabama on Jan. 20 in Knoxville. The Volunteers dismantled the Crimson Tide’s potent offense, limiting it to 44.6 percent field goal shooting and forcing 22 turnovers that led to 23 points.

That performance is pretty much on-brand for Tennessee’s season. Per, the Volunteers boast the second-most efficient defense at 91.5 points per 100 possessions, as well as the fourth-best effective defensive field goal percentage (43.5) and a top 75 turnover rate (19.3).

Coach Rick Barnes has a simple explanation for his team’s success.

“Everything we do on defense is team-oriented,” he said. “It’s difficult to do anything one-on-one.”

While Tennessee makes it tough to score, it’s found out that when Knecht is connecting, it’s dangerous on offense. Coming off a 39-point outburst against Florida that made him the first SEC player since LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal to score 35 points in consecutive games, Knecht provided 17 first half points against Alabama and 25 for the game.

Knecht is averaging 18.8 ppg, while improving Jonas Aidoo adds 12.1 ppg and a team-high 7.3 rebounds. Zakai Zeigler contributes 10.2 ppg and a team-high 5.1 assists.

As for Vanderbilt, its long season got longer on Jan. 20 when it absorbed a 68-55 loss at Mississippi State. The Commodores buried themselves in the first half — they fell behind 36-21 at intermission — and couldn’t mount a comeback as they hit only 37.7 percent of their field goal tries.

Making matters worse is that Vanderbilt is stumbling headlong into perhaps the toughest part of its schedule. This is the start of a four-game stretch that also includes a trip to No. 8 Auburn (on Wednesday) and a home date with No. 6 Kentucky (on Feb. 6).

Coach Jerry Stackhouse is preaching patience to his team.

“Got to keep trusting what we’re doing, keep trusting the system,” he said after the loss to Mississippi State. “It feels right now like you’re never going to win a game and I just told them that’s not the case. We’re going to win games but we got to keep doing the things that we need to get better.”

Poor shooting has been the biggest issue. The Commodores are connecting on just 39.9 percent of their field goals, 348th in Division I, and have made only 28.3 percent of their 3-pointers, which rates 346th.

Guard Ezra Manjon is the team’s top scorer at 15.2 ppg.

–Field Level Media

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