TV Schedule: Saturday, Dec. 19, 11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Arena: KeyArena, Seattle, WA
Line: Gonzaga (-8)
At 7-3, the Gonzaga Bulldogs entered the season with high expectations, but have lost to every team they faceexpected to go to the 2016 NCAA tournament — except the Connecticut Huskies. The Bulldogs will be confident heading into their Saturday night matchup with the defensively challenged Tennessee Volunteers, but wary after losing an earlier game to another SEC opponent, the Texas A&M Aggies.
Despite keeping it close in every loss this season, Tennessee has already lost four games and looks like a team that would need to win the conference tournament to make the 2016 NCAA tournament. This means that their matchup with Gonzaga is a must-win game for the Vols if they want to have even the slightest chance of making it into March Madness as an at-large team.
Likely to pose the biggest threat to the Bulldogs, the Vols’ Kevin Punter is one of the best and most underrated scorers in the nation, while Armani Moore is one of the hardest working players in college basketball. These two players should have major games for Tennessee, as should Admiral Schofield.
Unfortunately, Tennessee’s defense is not even ranked in the top 250. Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis should tear apart Rick Barnes’ squad and easily lead the much more talented Bulldogs to victory.
Expect Tennessee to keep it close for a while, but, just like the game with the Butler Bulldogs, Gonzaga will pull away in the second half. It may seem like this is the worst season for Tennessee basketball in a long time, but Barnes has this team on the right path, and the Vols will be back on track in a season or two.
Prediction: Gonzaga 75, Tennessee 68