The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (26-6) and Tennessee Volunteers (19-14) will meet up in the National Invitational Tournament on Monday night inside the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. Tennessee Volunteers 

The Tennessee Volunteers are 9-1 all-time against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders Middle Tennessee State captured an 86-78 win over the Marshall Thundering Herd as 5.5-point home favorites in the first round of the NIT, which served as the program’s first postseason victory since a 1989 NCAA Tournament victory.  The Blue Raiders are the first Sun Belt Conference team to win in this event since Western Kentucky in 2005.  It all starts with 2012 Sun Belt Player of the Year LaRon Dendy, who is averaging 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.  Middle Tennessee State is 6-1 ATS as an underdog this year and the “over” is 5-2 in those contests.

The Blue Raiders have won just one of 10 previous meetings with the Volunteers, dropping an 86-56 decision as 16.5-point road underdogs on Nov. 30, 2010.  Middle Tennessee hasn’t been within single digits of Tennessee in the last seven meetings.  It’s important to note that the program is one of 10 nationally with at least 26 wins and 10 road wins.

Tennessee wasn’t expected to do much this season in being picked by the media to finish 11th in the Southeastern Conference, but head coach Cuonzo Martin led his team to a 18-14 regular-season record.  The Volunteers opened up this event with a 65-51 win over Savannah State as 13-point favorites, which signified that the locker room wasn’t shattered emotionally after not making the 2012 NCAA Tournament.  It’s important to note that All-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon was not in the lineup last time out due to a knee injury, but is listed as probable for tonight’s contest.  Tennessee is 13-2 ATS at home this season and the “under” is 8-5 in that situation.

The Volunteers have won 13 of their last 14 home games and have gone 13-11 in this particular event since 1945.  Tennessee is 5-2 at home when playing in the NIT and is 0-5 as a home favorite of 3.5 to 6 points the last two-plus years.  Offensively, the team has averaged 71.2 points per game in front of the home faithful, which has directly led to a scoring margin of +10.9 points inside tonight’s venue.

Bettors will likely back the Volunteers due to their 4-0 ATS mark versus Sun Belt opponents, while the Blue Raiders are 1-4 ATS following a spread win.

Recommendation:  Tennessee Volunteers -4.5

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