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Jayhawks vs. Volunteers

Posted on January 8th, 2010

With college football out the door for the season, NCAA’ers have no place to turn but the hardwood for the next few months to satisfy their gambling cravings. And you could do worse, considering the greatest basketball show on earth is just dribbling into its prime. Still think Kansas has what it takes? They’ve been just squeezing by a few opponents lately. Not exactly as dominant as No. 1 teams of old. But, yeah, probably too early to write them off yet. After all, they are still undefeated.

On Sunday, the mighty Jayhawks travel to face No. 15 Tennessee. You can catch that one on CBS at 4:30 p.m. The 15th-ranked Volunteers are 11-2 and 3rd in the SEC right now behind only No. 3 Kentucky and No. 16 (you figure it out) Mississippi. Tenn has won three straight after being crushed – embarrassed – by USC on the road. Their other loss was a one-point heartbreaker to Purdue. But they still have an undefeated record at home to defend (7-0), and you can bet they’ll be screaming their heads off as hostile hosts to the No. 1 team in the nation.

Kansas scores about 5 more points than Tennessee and holds teams to five less. With that differential, I’d expect about a 7 to 8-point line in Kansas’ favor on the road. Of course, the Volunteers won’t care about the line, they’ll be looking to upset outright, and the way KU just slid by Cornell, now’s the perfect time to slay the dragon.

Here’s the key, rebounding. Kansas outrebounds Tenn by more than 4 points a game. If the Volunteers can somehow keep the Jayhawks’ big men away from the boards, they can keep this close and let the emotion from the crowd do the rest. No small feat, however, as Cole Aldrich himself averages an even 10 boards a game. And that’s how Kansas gets you – they’re not pumping the ball into one or two players hands. It’s spread around. Got Collins boxed off pretty well? Henry will get you. Both of the on the bench? Aldrich and Morris will pick up the slack. And the list goes on and on. I’m almost as impressed with Kansas’ depth than with their No. 1 ranking right now.

However, you can’t say enough about the power of the home crowd in college basketball, and Tennessee is a respected, ranked team this year. I think if they get off hot and keep the defensive pressure going, it’ll be enough to at least upset the spread. However, the offense should kick in at some point, and a battle of the three-pointers isn’t out of the question. Kansas kills it with a 43% mark from the arc, while Tenn trails miserably at nearly 10% less. Tennessee better hope it doesn’t need to start hoisting prayers to stay in this one.