Tennessee Volunteers @ Vanderbilt Commodores – 9
There was a lesson in Virginia Tech (who was previously winless in ACC play) and their upset win over #16 Virginia this weekend. When rivals square off, regardless of the records, and regardless of who’s playing in their home barn; anything can happen. Tonight features another one of those rivalry-type games when Cuanzo Martin’s Volunteers make the trip to Nashville to take on Gene Stallings’ Commodores at Vandy.
Tennessee has lost a few games this season. Okay, they’ve lost MORE than a few games this season. In fact, they enter the game with a losing record at 9-10. Given that, it’d be pretty easy to dismiss the Vols as easier fodder tonight, but I’d caution you to, well, use caution before overlooking Tennessee’s chances. They may be piling up the losses, but over the past two weeks, this Tennessee team has begun to turn the corner. Two weeks ago they got an upset win over Florida, then followed it up with a well-played and hard fought loss to the nation’s new #1 team, Kentucky, and then this weekend capped it off with a win at UConn.
Granted, in between those impressive efforts they managed to drop games to Georgia and Mississippi State, but the point is this is a team that competes night in and night out. With the exception of a well-played 10-point loss in Maui to Duke and a blowout loss at Memphis, all eight of Tennessee’s other losses have been within five points. Regardless of whether the team was elite or pedestrian, the Vols seemed to find a way to lose by four. It won’t impress the NCAA Selection Committee, but it does impress savvy wagerers who are getting a cushy nine points.
Vanderbilt had a sluggish start to the season, but has worked their way back into the 5 to 7 seed range on the national landscape. They had their eight-game winning streak snapped this weekend by Mississippi State in an overtime thriller, but have otherwise been flawless in 2012. They are 4-1 in conference play, and have been winning by low double-digits most games. It makes the nine-point laydown pretty tolerable in just about any other situation, but given the huge rivalry and the improved play of Tennessee, it is just a little too much for me to lay. I like Vandy to win, but think Tennessee will cover the nine point spread.