Assuming tonight's game (7:30 tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena) also goes down to the wire, you have to like UT's chances. The Vols have lost twice at home this year, but the setbacks were administered by No. 7 Kentucky and No. 8 Louisville. The Gamecocks are well below the UK/Louisville level. In fact, they're struggling mightily just to get the ball in the basket. They've scored 60 points or less in four of their five SEC games to date.
Another thing that weighs in UT's favor tonight is the fact Carolina will be without center Marius Petravicius, who tore an ACL and is out for the season.
Even without Petravicius, the Gamecocks will have a decided height advantage against the Vols. Head coach Dave Odom is expected to go with a frontline of 6-10 Tony Kitchings (9.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg), 6-9 Rolando Howell (10.2, 6.9) and 6-7 Carlos Powell (14.3, 4.9). UT will counter with a three-guard lineup whose frontline will be 6-10 Brandon Crump, 6-8 Ron Slay and 6-3 Jon Higgins.
Carolina also will have a decided height advantage at guard, where 6-7 Chuck Eidson and 6-2 Michael Boynton will have the edge over 6-2 Watson and 6-0 Thaydeus Holden.
Still, you have to like UT's chances. The Vols should be motivated to avenge a 94-60 humiliation Carolina administered last year at Thompson-Boling Arena. In addition, they need to win their remaining home games in order to secure a bid to the NIT.
That said, I'm picking the Big Orange by a 65-58 score.