Tennessee basketball is looking for its fourth straight win as it hosts Texas in the final rendition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
It’s head coach Rick Barnes’ second matchup against his old program since coming to Knoxville and the Vols are looking to even the score after last season’s, 52-51, loss in Austin.
No. 4 Tennessee is one of the top teams in the country and riding plenty of momentum while No. 10 Texas (17-3, 6-2 Big 12) has kept things on the rails despite a midseason coaching change.
Here’s the RTI game predictions for the marquee matchup.
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Tennessee is one of those teams that no one wants to play against right now. Yes, I know, the Vols lost to Kentucky two weeks ago in Knoxville. Since then, though, Tennessee has been on fire. This is a determined team that plays outstanding – no, historic – defense. Zakai Zeigler’s emergence as a true point guard who can pass or shoot gives Tennessee that added weapon that they might not have in a 25-point-per-game shooter. Zeigler’s ability to get any teammate involved at any time makes up for that a good bit.
Texas does have a strong lineup, specifically with the backcourt. Rodney Terry has done an excellent job of installing his personality and profile into this Texas team after the firing of Chris Beard earlier in the year.
There’s a lot on the line for Tennessee after the loss to Kentucky. I believe this to be a bounce-back game for Tennessee and for Thompson Boling Arena.
Prediction: Tennessee 66, Texas 60
Tennessee has flown under the radar as a Top-5 team, but they have the opportunity to get their biggest win in Thompson-Boling Arena this season with No. 10 Texas coming to town. The Vols undoubtedly have a sour taste in their mouths after losing to the Longhorns by one point on the road last season. And couple that with the Vols’ disappointing home loss to Kentucky two weeks ago, Tennessee is going to come out hungry.
The Longhorns have an elite backcourt duo in Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter, but they have yet to face a defense of the Vols’ caliber. Additionally, Tennessee’s offense is playing the best basketball it has all season since shifting to a smaller lineup.
The game will go down to the wire, but I’ll take Tennessee to get their biggest home win of the season.
Prediction: Tennessee 69, Texas 64
Tennessee gets a double dose of a do over as the fourth-ranked Vols look to avenge last seasons loss at Texas while also getting a second chance at a big game in Thompson-Boling Arena after laying an egg against Kentucky two weeks ago. Texas brings one of the nation’s top backcourts to Knoxville and that’s the exciting matchup in the game. Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter and Minnesota transfer Marcus Carr are explosive scorers but haven’t faced a defense like Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi and Tennessee yet this season.
I think the Vols defense will slow down the duo like they have so many others this season and Texas doesn’t have the interior scoring that makes Tennessee’s top defense vulnerable. Offensively, I think Tennessee comes out sharp and buzzing after the Kentucky game two weeks ago. Vols take a lead in the first half and expand it in the second, earning their second top 10 win of the season.
Prediction: Tennessee 74, Texas 63