Tennessee and Gonzaga are in Phoenix for a top ten matchup today at 3:00 PM eastern. These teams come in here with 1 loss combined and that only loss was to #2 Kansas in overtime for Tennessee. These are two teams that appear to be the real deal and this is a Final Four quality matchup on a neutral site.
Tennessee has only played one game within single digits where they eventually lost by 6 in overtime to Kansas a few weeks ago. The rest of their game they have been the clearly superior team. Their roster consists of FIVE players averaging double-digit points and they do have a player averaging over 20 points. Grant Williams has been one of the best players in college basketball this season. He is averaging 20/9/4/1/1 in 31 minutes a game and shooting almost 60% from the field and he has even made 5 of his 11 three-point attempts. Williams is a 6-7 forward that has been Tennessee’s leading scorer in 4 of their 7 games.
The interesting note is that Williams had 18/8/6 vs. Kansas on 13 shots and he did foul out in that game. Kansas is the only team that they have played that is similar in size to Gonzaga. Tennessee would definitely prefer that Williams is their leading shot getter and their leading scorer in the game, but Gonzaga has been pretty good at interior defense with their size and length. Admiral Schofield and Lamonte Turner are the X-factors for the Tennessee team in this game. Schofield is their main guard scorer and he has been great this season averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds with his 6’6 size. He is also a solid shooter and has the ability to get hot and change the game.
Lamonte Turner has caught my eye this year as well. He has struggled shooting this year, but he is still averaging 10 points per game off the bench in 23 minutes a game on 26% from the field and 20% from the 3-point line. Those are both putrid lines, but that means that he is taking a lot of shots. If Turner gets hot, they could add scoring that they have not had all year.
Gonzaga has 2 more ranked opponents left on their schedule and they are their next 2 games. Tennessee and North Carolina are basically the last lines of defense before we start talking about Gonzaga having a really nice road to an undefeated season. Gonzaga has played a lot of close games this season including a 6 point win over Illinois, 2 point wins over Duke and Washington, and a close game throughout with Creighton. This is a good and bad thing for this team. They have been really good at finishing out close games vs. all kinds of opponents. However, close games with Illinois and Washington? HMMM. That’s not ideal for the best team in the country.
Gonzaga is a great shooting team, which is really what carried them to victory against Duke. They are also really good at making it a pace-up game for the other team. The unique thing about this team is that they do rely on shooting, but if it is not falling, they do have the ability to score another way. Rui Hachimura is averaging 22 points and he can knock down jumpers if need be at 6’8. He is an NBA talent and he can take over any game.
Gonzaga vs. Tennesseee Prediction
This looks to be a close game, but I think that Tennessee will struggle with Gonzaga’s length on both sides of the ball. Tennessee has only had a close game with an elite Kansas team, but that is really the only team that projected to challenge them. They did prove that they can compete with that type of talent, but I am not confident that they find a way to close this game out. Give me Gonzaga (-3.5) in a competitive game that they eventually win by 6-12 points late.