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Game 17: No. 15 Kansas at No. 18 Tennessee – Preview and Prediction

The No. 15 Kansas Jayhawks got back on track on Thursday night as they took down TCU is one of the ugliest basketball games of the season. The Jayhawks now turn their attention to a non-conference matchup with No. 18 Tennessee, as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. A win over the Vols would be a very nice mark on KU’s NCAA Tournament resume. Tennessee comes in with a mark of 11-3 with wins over Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas. 

  • Saturday, January 30th, 2021, 5:00 PM CDT
  • Thompson-Bowling Arena – Knoxville, Tenn. 
  • ESPN
  • No. 15/18 Kansas (11-5, 5-4 Big 12) jumps out of conference action to play at No. 18/17 Tennessee (11-3, 5-3 SEC) in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. ESPN will televise the game with announcers Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale
  • Kansas is 5-2 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, including 1-0 against Tennessee. Since 2007, KU is 9-4 in conference challenges which includes battles against opponents from the SEC, Pac-12 and Big East. 
  • Tennessee will be the eighth ranked team Kansas will play in 2020-21. The Jayhawks are 4-3 against ranked foes this season and 106-55 in head coach Bill Self’s 18 seasons at KU.
  • Junior Ochai Agbaji is second in the Big 12 in 3-point field goals made per game at 2.7 and is second in 3-point field goal percentage at 43.2%. Agbaji has made 28 threes in his last nine games.
  • Kansas enters the Tennessee contest No. 4 in NET strength of schedule, which is first in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have led NCAA Division I in NET SOS each of the last two seasons and five times under head coach Bill Self (2005, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2020).
  • With the consecutive weeks being ranked at 230, which is an NCAA record, the Kansas-Tennessee contest will be the 419th-straight game KU will play as a ranked team, a streak which started Feb. 2, 2009. 

Volunteers to Watch

John Fulkerson  – 6’9”, senior, forward
Fulkerson leads the Vols in scoring at 11.2 PPG and rebounding at 6.0 RPG. Fulkerson is going to get his points around the basket, as 54.7 percent of his shots come at the rim. The fifth year big man has been in double figures in 11 of Tennessee’s 14 games this year, although two of his lowest outputs have come in the last two games.

Santiago Vescovi – 6’3”, sophomore, guard
Vescovi is only averaging 9.2 PPG, but runs the point for the Vols and leads them in assists at 3.3 APG. The sophomore guard is a threat from distance as well, as he’s shooting 39.2 percent from range this season. 73.3 percent of Vescovi’s shots this season have been threes, so he can fill it up if he catches fire.

Jayhawk Pick to Click

Christian Braun – 6’6”, sophomore, guard
Braun was pretty much a non-factor in Thursday’s win over TCU, and has been pretty much a non-factor in four of the last five games. He was very timid against the Horned Frogs, as he attempted just three shots. He’s been very streaky this season and he’s due for a big game. I expect him to come out aggressive against the Vols. There is no reason why Braun shouldn’t be attempting 7-8 threes per game. 


I have been on quite the cold stretch in picking these games lately. At one point I believe I was 9-2 ATS, and now all of a sudden I’m 9-7, so lets see if we can get back on track. 

I think this is going to be another rock fight. Tennessee is not an offensive juggernaut, and Kansas has been horrendous on the offensive side lately. The Volunteers play a similar style to Texas Tech, so expecting a low-scoring affair is definitely reasonable.

KU has the potential for an offensive outburst, and they’re due to break out of that sooner rather than later and I think that starts on Saturday. The Vols do boast a strong defense, but I think KU gets off to a hot start. Braun, Ochai Agbaji and co. get off to a hot start and bang in a couple threes to get the ball rolling. Jalen Wilson played perhaps his worst game of the year against TCU. KU desperately needs him to break out of his funk. The are an entirely different team when he’s playing at the top of his game. I think David McCormack could have a matchup advantage against Tennessee’s smaller front line. 

I think this will be a closely fought game, but in the end I think KU has a little bit more potential on offense. I think Jalen Wilson will finally emerge down the stretch like he did earlier in the season and make a couple of big baskets late. Throw in a coaching advantage for KU and I like them to make just a couple more plays than Tennessee and pull out a huge non-conference victory. 

Kansas 68, Tennessee 65

KU +2.5 


Season Record: 11-5 (9-7 ATS)

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.

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