The Tennessee Volunteers will take on the Butler Bulldogs in the nightcap of the first round of the Bad Boy Mowers Battle for Atlantis. The game is scheduled for a 7:30 PM EST tip-off from the Imperial Arena in the Bahamas. The Volunteers enter the game as an 8-point favorite, with the total currently set at 137 points.
The Volunteers are now 2-1 on the season after defeating Florida Gulf Coast a week ago. Tennessee was able to “get right” after a surprising loss to Colorado and defeated the Eagles by 31 points. They were led by senior swiss army knife Josiah-Jordan James who scored 18 points in the game, along with six rebounds. Fellow senior Olivier Nkamhoua also scored 18 points in the game, while sophomore Jahmai Mashack scored ten off the bench.
The Butler Bulldogs will seek their fourth win on the season after consecutive blowout victories. Thad Matta’s team defeated St. Francis (PA) by a count of 95-67 on November 17th and followed that up with a 47-point victory over The Citadel over the weekend. The Bulldogs currently boast five players scoring double digits per game, with five players also averaging at least four rebounds per contest.
This will be the sixth meeting between the two programs and the first since 2015. Butler won that high-scoring affair by a score of 94-86, as Kelan Martin and Roosevelt Jones each scored over 20 points. Kevin Punter led the Vols with 27 points in the loss. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 3-2
Tennessee Volunteers Overview
Rick Barnes switched up the rotation a bit after the loss to Colorado. Coach brought Zakai Zeigler off of the bench for the matchup with Florida Gulf Coast, and it seemed to work. While Zeigler didn’t score a ton of points in his 32 minutes, the team seemed to respond in a positive fashion scoring a season-high in points.
The Vols are just 1-2 against the spread on the season and are underperforming the number by -6.8 points per contest. Much of that can be attributed to the surprising result against the Colorado Buffaloes, however, as the Vols underperformed the number by 28 points after being a 16-point favorite.
The Vols have not been a great shooting team so far this season, ranking 270th in the nation in effective field goal percentage and 219th in three-point percentage. They have been stout on the defensive side of the ball, ranking fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and holding opponents to just 57 points per game.
Butler Bulldogs Overview
One-time Butler coach and coaching legend at both Xavier and Ohio State Thad Matta returns to the Butler sideline this season and boasts an experienced group to hopefully get the Bulldogs back to the postseason. Matta hit the transfer portal hard after replacing LaVall Jordan and brought in some nice talent.
Former North Carolina State center Manny Bates joins the program after an injury-riddled career in Raleigh and has played very well so far. Despite shoulder and knee injuries, Bates seems to be his old self this season, averaging 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. He is joined by former Purdue mainstay Eric Hunter who is averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 41% from behind the arc in the young campaign.
Coach Jordan holdovers Chuck Harris, Jayden Taylor, and Simas Lukosius are the three leading scorers for Butler this season and seem to have taken a big step forward under the tutelage of their new head coach.
The Bulldogs are 3-0-1 against the number this season and are outperforming the number by a ridiculous +13.8 points per game. Butler has a margin of victory of 26.3 points on the season while going over the total in just one of their four games.
Tennessee at Butler Prediction
Tennessee easily has the advantage in terms of raw talent, but the Bulldogs may have the edge in experience and coaching prowess. It is often difficult to trust Rick Barnes, as his teams are all too familiar with unexplainable letdowns. See the game against Colorado.
The concern here is that Butler does not have a very deep bench, while Tennessee currently boasts eight players in their rotation that average 9.7 minutes or more through their three games.
Look for Zakai Zeigler to have a bit of a coming-out party in this game, as he has had two subpar performances in a row. The 5’9 sophomore has the potential to be one of the best scorers in the SEC but has yet to show it. The Battle for Atlantis stage is a perfect place to remind the country who he is.
Look for Butler to cover the eight-point spread, but Tennessee wins the game straight up.