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Prediction Panel: No. 18 Tennessee vs. Mississippi State

No. 18 Tennessee looks to snap its two-game losing streak on Tuesday night inside of Thompson-Boling Arena when it welcomes Mississippi State to town for a 7 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.

The Vols (10-3, 4-3 SEC) enter the contest coming off of losses to Florida and then-ranked No. 19 Missouri. Tennessee drop 12 spots to No. 18 in the AP Poll as a result of its poor performances last week against the Gators and the Tigers.

Florida embarrassed the Vols last Tuesday night in Gainesville, winning 75-49 despite its three best players not playing. Tennessee shot 29.3% from the field, 16.7% from three, turned it over 18 times and lost the rebounding battle 44-36.

Turnovers continued to be an issue for Tennessee in its 73-64 loss to Missouri on Saturday night. The Vols turned it over 18 times and allowed Mizzou guard Xavier Pinson to score a career-high 29 points as the Tigers shot 43.9% from the field as a team.

Mississippi State (9-7, 4-4 SEC) is coming off an 81-73 loss to Alabama on Saturday afternoon. D.J. Stewart Jr. led Mississippi State with 27 points and Iverson Molinar added 19, but Stewart shot 9-of-21 and Molinar was just 5-of-19.

Tennessee leads its all-time series with Mississippi State 85-44, dating back to 1924. The Volunteers own a 46-11 advantage when the series is contested in Knoxville and have won two straight home games over the Bulldogs.

Managing editor Ben McKee, as well as RTI contributor Blake Von Hagen, make their predictions for Tuesday night’s game between the Vols and Bulldogs:

Ben’s Pick

Both teams enter Tuesday night’s contest on two-game losing streaks. The Bulldogs themselves are 1-3 in their last four games with their only win coming over Vanderbilt. I have yet to pick Tennessee to lose this season as I thought the Vols were the better of the teams at the time when they lost to Alabama, and I didn’t expect them to lose to a Florida team without its three best players. I then gave them the benefit of the doubt. This is the last game I’m giving Tennessee the benefit of the doubt.

Mississippi State isn’t a tough offense to matchup against, so I do expect the Vols to have more success on the defensive end this game. I also expect Tennessee to correct its turnover issue. The Vols have been good when it comes to limiting turnovers, but they’ve turned it over 36 times over the last two games, which has played a big role in back-to-back.

Pick: Tennessee, 66-58

MVP: Tennessee freshman guard Jaden Springer

My bold prediction is that Springer plays and we see how important he was to this basketball team. Springer helps cut down on the turnovers and leads Tennessee to victory.

Blake’s Pick

It’s time to see how Tennessee responds to its first losing streak of the season. The Vols had played well against conference opponents prior to a miserable week that consisted of losses to Florida and Missouri. They will be trying to bounce back against an average Mississippi State team on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs have not shot the ball very well and are not a particularly good defensive team. One of their strengths has been on the offensive glass, so that will certainly be a concern for Tennessee, who has struggled to rebound recently.

I think this is a get-right game for the Vols, though. Mississippi State does not have a ton of firepower and is not going to force turnovers like Missouri did. Tennessee is playing its second consecutive home game, while the Bulldogs are going on the road for the second game in a row. Jaden Springer could return on Tuesday, which would be a huge boost. Either way, Yves Pons should slow down DJ Stewart on the defensive end and the Vols are bound to shoot better offensively. The early betting action has been on Tennessee, which is usually a good sign.

Pick: Tennessee, 75-65

MVP: Tennessee senior forward Yves Pons

If there was one player who showed out in the loss to Missouri, it was Yves Pons. He had his best offensive game of the season. Pons is going to be key in slowing down Stewart on defense and should be able to build on his breakout offensive performance.

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