Tennessee is looking to make the SEC Tournament Semifinals for the fourth straight season as it takes on Missouri in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.
The Vols are also looking to avenge last month’s loss against Missouri. Tennessee overcame a 17-point second half deficit to take the lead before late game miscues opened the door for a DeAndre Gholston 35-foot buzzer beater.
Tennessee is looking to avenge its loss Friday after defeating Ole Miss 70-55 on Thursday afternoon. Missouri is playing its first game of the event after earning a top four seed and double bye in the tournament.
Here are the RTI team’s game predictions for the Vols’ quarterfinals matchup against Missouri.
More From RTI: How To Watch, Projected Lineups And Everything Else To Know For Tennessee-Missouri
You know, this one is hard to pick for a few different reasons. The first thought that runs through my mind is the head-to-head matchup between the Vols and the Tigers from that Feb. 11 game in Knoxville. And while Missouri did beat Tennessee on a half-court heave that game, the second half is what still stands out from a Tennessee perspective. After trailing by 12 heading into halftime, Tennessee would eventually go on to erase a 17-point deficit against the Tigers with a remarkable 53-point second half showcase.
When Tennessee is playing great basketball, that’s what the team looks like.
I lean towards Tennessee for this quarterfinal game but don’t have a ton of confidence in the pick in either direction. Maybe it’s recency bias after watching Josiah-Jordan James drop 20 against Ole Miss, but if that’s the Tennessee team that shows up on Friday, I think this is Tennessee’s game for the taking.
Dennis Gates is an excellent coach for the Tigers and will be a force in the league for years to come. There’s no doubt that Tennessee is going up against a great coach and a great backcourt. After losing two straight to Auburn and Texas A&M, two teams that Tennessee also recently lost to, Missouri has rattled off four straight wins heading into the tournament.
I’m going with Tennessee after watching the effort that the Vols put out on the court Friday. Could Tennessee lose? Certainly.
Missouri is a hot offensive team and can rattle off points at any minute. But with strong defense and veteran leadership, I see Tennessee pulling the upset over four-seed Mizzou. We’ll see.
Prediction: Tennessee 69, Missouri 66
Tennessee’s loss against Missouri last month was one of the oddest games of the season because of how well the Vols played. Sure, they weren’t great in the first half as they fell behind by double-digits but the Tigers made some incredibly challenging shots in the first half and really the whole game.
The second half comeback was one of Tennessee’s best stretches all season and obviously the late game miscues led to an unlikely game winner.
Tennessee is unlikely to get 23 points from Tyreke Key like they did in the first meeting, but Missouri is just as unlikely to hit 14 three-pointers and shoot over 50% from deep again.
Here are a few keys I see this game coming down to. First, how effectively can Tennessee defend Kobe Brown. Brown averages 14.9 points per game and gave the Vols’ problems in the first meeting. Jahmai Mashack eventually slowed him down in the second half but Brown dominated Olivier Nkamhoua in the first half on his way to a 21 point night.
If three-point shots aren’t falling for Missouri and Tennessee slows Brown down, I have a hard time see the Vols losing.
Secondly, Tennessee has to take care of the basketball. The Vols are in a raw spot handling the basketball as they adjust to life without Zakai Zeigler. Tennessee turned it over 14 times against Ole Miss and many were careless mistakes that led to easy Rebels points.
Missouri is a team that can give you fits if you don’t take care of the ball, ranking second nationally in steal percentage. But if Tennessee is crisp, they’ll get open shots and easy baskets against Missouri’s extended zone defense.
I think the Vols do enough to earn the win.
Prediction: Tennessee 76, Missouri 68