2022 College Basketball Preview: No. 16 Tennessee Looks for Revenge Against High-Flying No. 4 Kentucky

No. 4 Kentucky routed serious rival No. 16 Tennessee 107-79 in Lexington on Jan. 15, when the Wildcats could not have played much better, shooting 67.9 percent from the field for a season high in points. Kentucky has won 10 of its last 11 NCAA basketball games and Tennessee has won seven of eight since the Kentucky loss. 

No. 4 Kentucky at No. 16 Tennessee

Tuesday, 9 pm ET
Record: No. 4 Kentucky 21-4, 10-2 SEC; No. 16 Tennessee 18-6, 9-3 SEC
Spread: Tennessee -1.5
Over/Under: 140.5
Moneyline: Tennessee -125; Kentucky +105
Injuries: Kentucky G TyTy Washington (left leg) left the Florida game in the second half and is considered questionable. Kentucky F Jacob Toppin (ankle) missed the Florida game and is questionable. Tennessee F Olivier Nkamhoua (ankle) is out.
Series history: The teams have split the last 18 games, including a pair of SEC tournament meetings in 2018-19. The Vols have lost the last two in Knoxville by 15 and 13 points after winning the previous four.

A look at Kentucky

As Kentucky gathered at midcourt following a decisive victory over Florida on Saturday, star forward Oscar Tshiebwe raised his arms above his head and gestured to the crowd as if to say “How about that?”

Tshiebwe, 6-9, has become the leading candidate for Wooden Award, and he supplied more evidence in a career game against the Gators with 27 points, 19 rebounds, three steals.

Tshiebwe — now DraftKings’ big favorite at +125 to win the Wooden — leads Division I in rebounding with 15.3 per game and is second in with 19 double-doubles, but he is hardly alone.

Freshman guard TyTy Washington is averaging 12.8 points and 4.1 assists, and spot-up shooter Kellen Grady  and Keion Brooks are double-figure scorers. (Washington’s status is worth checking.)

Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler, another in a major offseason haul that included Tsheibwe (West Virginia) and Grady (Davidson), knows how to get the ball to his shots.

Wheeler is averaging 9.7 points and 7.2 assists per. Wheeler returned from a two-game injury absence with 21 points and eight assists in the first meeting with Tennessee.

A look at Tennessee

Hall of Fame coach Rick Barnes has his seventh Volunteers’ team within shouting distance of a third 20-win season in the last five against a brutal schedule that welcomed all comers.

The Vols’ have beaten No. 3 Arizona and North Carolina and have lost to No. 10 Villanova, No. 11 Texas Tech, Alabama, LSU and No. 20 Texas. It beat LSU in the rematch. All were ranked at the time of the game.

Tennessee super-senior super-sub John Fulkerson defines the work ethic for a team that has limited opponents to 41.7 shooting from the field while averaging 9.9 steals per game (eighth in Division I) and forcing 17.2 turnovers (15th in Division I).

Those are the only numbers that grab you, but those are the ones that keep the Volunteers in every game. 

Tennessee overcame a 16-point deficit in the final 4:09 before losing to Texas 52-51 in Barnes’ return to Austin two weeks ago, but it has won the last four while averaging 79 points and shooting 42.6 percent from distance. 

Santiago Vescovi, a naive of Ecuador, leads the Vols in scoring (13.6) and has 72 threes while shooting 45.7 from distance in league play. Seven Volunteers have had at least one 20-point game.

Three things to know

  •  Kentucky’s TyTy Washington and Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler are projected as first-round picks in the 2022 NBA Draft
  •  Kentucky (3) and Tennessee (10) are the rated same in both the KenPom and the NCAA Net rankings
  •  Tennessee and Kentucky have no losses outside Quad I

Three numbers to know

  • 14 — consecutive home victories by Tennessee since a loss to Kentucky last Feb. 20.
  • Plus-10.0 — Kentucky’s rebound margin per game, tops in Division I. 
  • 12 — times Tennessee has beaten a Kentucky team ranked in the top five.

The pick: Tennessee 72, Kentucky 69

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