Free Picks: Tennessee Volunteers vs Oregon State Beavers

Free Picks: Tennessee Volunteers vs Oregon State Beavers
Tennessee Volunteers vs Oregon State Beavers, NCAA, Bankers Life Fieldhouse

The No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (18-8, 11-8 SEC) and the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers (17-12, 13-10 Pac 12) pair up in the first round of the NCAA tournament, where the Volunteers are making their third consecutive appearance. The Beavers, on the other hand, are back on the national stage for the first time since 2016 thanks to an impressive run through the Pac 12 tournament. Had they fallen short of winning the conference, they wouldn’t have made it here.

Tennessee facing land mine Oregon State in dreaded 5-vs.-12 matchup

Tennessee facing land mine Oregon State in dreaded 5-vs.-12 matchup

The 12th-through-16th seeds in the NCAA tournament are usually reserved for teams from lesser-known schools in lesser-known conferences — not Power 6 programs like the Pac 12’s Oregon State.

And yet here the Beavers are, as a 12-seed, because they really didn’t deserve to be here at all. But rules are rules, and their impressive run through the Pac 12 tournament awarded them a vaunted March Madness berth. Suddenly, Oregon State finds itself as a team that caught fire at the right time and could be a pesky combatant for the 5th-seeded Tennessee Volunteers, who sit as 8-point favorites on the latest NCAA basketball odds (-111 at Betway). An outright win for Oregon State might not be out of the question, but our BetPicks prediction will also judge this matchup based on the spread.

And really, if we’re talking spread we like the Beavers quite a bit. Oregon State has covered in nine of its past 10 games — all but one of which was as the underdog — thanks in part to some white-hot 3-pt. shooting. The Beavers are an average 3-pt. shooting team (34.6%, 122nd in NCAA Division I), but they’ve shot 40% or better in four of their past five games — including all three Pac 12 tournament wins. It’s impossible to know if that can persist for another game, but we at least know Oregon State is capable.

On Tennessee’s side of things, let’s give credit to one of college basketball’s best defenses: fourth in adjusted efficiency, 14th in turnover rate and 25th in effective field goal percentage. The Volunteers aren’t going to make life easy for Oregon State shooters. With that said, Tennessee has struggled to build momentum of late — winning just four of its final eight games.

That’s why the big-time value seekers might be interested in backing Oregon State to win straight up (+275 at Betway). And here’s another reason: 12th seeds upset 5th seeds all the time. In fact, it has happened at least once in 30 of the past 35 NCAA tournaments. And in 2019, three of the four 5-vs.-12 matchups were upsets.

Keep that in mind, or play it a bit safer and take Oregon State with the points.

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  •  Tennessee is 4-5-1 ATS in its past 10 games
  •  The UNDER has cashed in five of the Volunteers’ past eight games
  •  Oregon State is 9-1 ATS in its past 10 games
  •  The OVER has cashed in seven of the Beavers’ past 10 games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).