No. 6 Tennessee is back in action on Tuesday night against the Florida Gators after not playing a mid-week game last week. The Vols were scheduled to play in Nashville on Tuesday night, but COVID issues within the Vanderbilt program forced the game to be postponed.
In their first game following the postponement, the Vols (10-1, 4-1 SEC) defeated Vanderbilt in Knoxville 81-61 on Saturday behind a team-high 16 points from Keon Johnson. The five-star freshman was 4-of-8 shooting from the field was 7-of-8 at the free throw line.
The win was the Volunteers’ seventh consecutive victory over the Commodores, and their fourth in a row inside Thompson-Boling Arena. Rick Barnes tied legendary former coaches Phog Allen and Don Haskins for 20th place on the all-time Division I wins list with 719. Barnes ranks seventh in career wins among active head coaches and now has 115 victories at Tennessee.
Florida (6-4, 3-3 SEC) enters the contest having lost three out of its last four games, including its last game out against Mississippi State, 72-69. The Gators beat Ole Miss 72-63 the game before.
Managing editor Ben McKee, as well as RTI contributor Blake Von Hagen, make their predictions for Tuesday night’s game between the Vols and Gator:
Tuesday night’s game against Florida is the closest projected game by KenPom on Tennessee’s schedule for nearly a month. The Gators are talented on both ends of the floor, but Mike White’s group lacks depth. White typically rolls with a short rotation anyways, but now must really do so due to the absence of starting guard Scottie Lewis.
The matchup to watch in this game is the matchup between Florida forward Colin Castleton and Tennessee forward John Fulkerson. If Castleton has a big game, the Gators will be in contention to pull off the at the end of the game. If Fulkerson handles business, the Vols will coast to a win.
Tennessee currently has Florida’s number, as the Vols haven’t lost to the Gators since 2017 and Rick Barnes is 5-1 against White. Without Keyontae Johnson or Scottie Lewis, I just don’t see Florida being able to find a rhythm against this Tennessee defense.
Pick: Tennessee, 65-55
MVP: Tennessee junior forward John Fulkerson
I expect Fulkerson to win his matchup with Castleton, which will likely determine the game. Castleton, the transfer from Michigan, tends to get in foul trouble while Fulkerson is terrific at drawing fouls.
This should be a tough test for Tennessee, but one that it passes. The Gators would have a much better shot in this game if Keyontae Johnson and Scottie Lewis were available, but they aren’t. Tennessee has too much depth for Florida to handle. The defense is going to wear down the Gators throughout the game and the offense will get enough done to grab the win.
Pick: Tennessee, 77-67
MVP: Tennessee freshman guard Keon Johnson
Johnson has been getting better as the season has progressed and will have a nice opportunity against a Florida team that is missing two of its best players. He is used in more offensive possessions than any other player on Tennessee’s roster.