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SEC Hoops Preview: Tennessee

Mississippi State opens up SEC play Wednesday night against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Where and When to Watch: SEC Network-8 PM CST

Mississippi State(7-6) will host Tennessee(8-4) Wednesday night for the 120th meeting between the two schools. The Bulldogs are coming off a big home win against the Florida State Seminoles. Tennessee is coming into the Hump on a four game winning streak. Both will be looking to start SEC play with a 1-0 record, something MSU has not done in two years.

In MSU's last outing against the Seminoles, the team held on to win the ballgame despite giving up 6 three-pointers and losing the rebounding battle, 30-28. This was the only game of the year where Mississippi State lost the rebounding battle but won the contest. The win against the Noles will send Mississippi State into SEC play with a winning record for the second year in a row.

Tennessee has been on a roll since a road loss to NC State, winning their last four games by an average of eleven points. A win over No.15 Butler has been the highlight of the Volunteers' season but outside of that win, UT has tended to play down to their competition. Tennessee had to earn comeback wins over Santa Clara, Tennessee Tech and East Tennessee St. If the Vols want to make the NCAA tournament they're going to have start playing to their potential rather than playing down to competition.

Mississippi State has a great chance to win this game. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well, MSU is averaging 62 points a game on 44% shooting and Tennessee has averaged 66 points on 45% shooting. The one problem that may arise for Mississippi State in this game is Tennessee's three-point shooting. The Volunteers are hitting on nearly 35% of their shots from behind the arc, while the Bulldogs connect on only 27% of their shots from long range.

Statistically speaking, State is also a better defensive team than UT. The Bulldogs only allow an average of 58 points a game, good enough for 26th best in the nation. Compare that with the Vols' defense giving up 64 points a game, which is 134th in the nation.

I expect this to be an overall close and competitive game but Tennessee has the three point shooting ability to keep the game just out of reach for the Bulldogs. The key will be to see how Mississippi State opens the game, in nearly every loss this season the Bulldogs have started the game out slow and found themselves in a big deficit early. If they can grab a lead in the opening minutes they may be able to hold on to the momentum and find a way to win.

Dawg Facts: Mississippi State has opened SEC play with Tennessee six times before with the record between the schools being tied at 3-3.

Prediction: Tennessee 70-65