WHO: No. 17 Tennessee Volunteers (22-9, 11-7 SEC) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (11-20, 3-15 SEC)
WHEN: Thursday, Mar. 9, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
HOW TO WATCH: SEC Network
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
Tennessee: G Santiago Vescovi, G Jahmai Mashack, G Josiah-Jordan James, F Olivier Nkamhoua, F Jonas Aidoo
Missouri: G Matthew Murrell, G James White, F Myles Burns, F Noah Carter, F Robert Allen, F Jaemyn Brakefield
SPREAD: Tennessee -11.5
By Justin Clemmer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It is officially tournament time in Tennessee. The 5th-seeded Vols will start the SEC Tournament in the second round facing 13th-seeded Ole Miss at 3:30 p.m. ET, in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Tennessee has had a rough season. Through injuries, disappointing losses, and inconsistent play, they finish with the fifth best record in the SEC at 11-7. At one point, this was the number-one ranked team in the country, now this team feels like it has an outside-shot in making any noise in March.
The Vols finished the regular season as the best defensive team in the country, but they were never able to find any consistency on offense, ranking 49th in the country, per KenPom.
With primary ball-handler Zakai Ziegler going down with a torn ACL two games ago, All-SEC First Team member Santiago Vescovi has had to do most of the heavy lifting in this offense.
Last game was the only full game without Ziegler, Vescovi led the team in points with 21 and assists with five in a 79-70 loss against Auburn.
Ziegler was arguably the best perimeter defender on the team, he was just listed on the SEC All-Defensive team for the second straight year. That’s not someone that can be replaced easily.
Tennessee’s entire rotation will have to play at their best for them to win the tournament like last year.. If one player is having an off-night shooting the ball, another player better be scoring at an insane clip or make up for it on the defensive end.
That being said, their first opponent shouldn’t give them much trouble.
Ole Miss finished the year with a 3-15 conference record, giving them the 13th seed in the SEC Tournament. They beat South Carolina in the first round 67-61, ending the Gamecocks season.
The Vols will look to do the same here and send the Rebels back to Oxford.
Last time these two faced off, The Vols actually squeaked by in a 63-59 road win back in December.
Players to Watch
Tennessee: Last game against Auburn revealed how Tennessee was going to fill the shoes of Zakai Ziegler: lean on Santiago Vescovi. He delivered with 21 points. In his previous meeting with Ole Miss, he scored a season high 22.
Tyreke Key is a name Tennessee fans have been shouting for all year. He’s shown flashes of being one of the best scorers on the team but hasn’t been able to string games together. He should get more looks and March is the perfect time for a microwave player like Key.
Ole Miss: The Rebels’ leading scorer is junior guard Matthew Murrell. He averaged 14.5 on the year and recently had a 26 point game against Texas A&M. Watch out for his three ball, he shoot s nearly seven a game.
Junior forward Jaemyn Brakefield is another Rebel who could get hot. Last time against Tennessee, he led the team with 18 points, and had 16 in the first round against South Carolina.
Ole Miss is the second worst team in the SEC, Tennessee should be able to end their season easily even without Zakai Ziegler. The game is in Nashville, look for a lot of orange in a Tennessee win.
Tennessee 67, Ole Miss 53