How long will this last?
Now that the new Vols are 5-0, we've started expecting victory instead of being surprised by it. And when the opponent is Georgia - 0-3 in conference play and picked to finish in the cellar - this one seems more sure than any other thus far.
Which means, of course...it's a trap.
In Georgia's last four games, the Dawgs have beaten #18 Georgia Tech, and held late leads on Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State before ultimately falling, two of those contests in hostile environments in Lexington and Starkville. Against Mississippi State, Georgia had a 13 point lead with 6:30 to play, but couldn't hold on. And now with the Vols coming in, no team has faced a more brutal opening stretch in the SEC. As Wayne Chism said, "This ain't the old Georgia. These guys are good." And unfortunately for us, they're also due.
The good starts with Trey Thompkins, Georgia's 6'9" sophomore forward. He's averaging 16.7 points per game, and has scored above that average in each of the last four contests. He also averages 8.1 rebounds per game, and put a 17-13 on Kentucky to open SEC play. Thompkins is fifth in the SEC in both categories. Last year, he was good against the Vols (24 points and 16 rebounds in the two meetings), but Tyler Smith was better (39 and 14). Obviously, Tennessee will need a new solution. Wayne Chism is usually at his best against the best, and Kenny Hall will be making a return to his home state. Tennessee will need both to play well.
Will Cameron Tatum or Melvin Goins return to the rotation tonight? All indications still point to no, unless foul trouble presents itself. Clearly what the Vols have been doing is working, and they'll probably need more success in the halfcourt game in Athens - Georgia plays a slower pace and shoots fewer threes than anyone in the SEC, scoring only 66.6 points per game, next to last in the SEC (LSU at 65.7). Stat you don't want to mess with: Georgia leads the SEC in free throw percentage.
Georgia is young, and while Mark Fox didn't get the publicity that went to John Calipari and Anthony Grant, Nevada won the WAC four times in his five years there. Thompkins and guards Travis Leslie and Dustin Ware are all sophomores, and those three lead the Dawgs in scoring along with senior Ricky McPhee. Georgia is definitely a team to watch in the future.
The present depends on how well the Vols can channel the past: Tennessee has won an incredible ten straight games over the Bulldogs, and Bruce Pearl is 8-0 against them - Georgia is the only SEC team he's never lost to. Georgia hasn't figured out how to close games and win yet, while this new Tennessee team has done just that every time out. If Mark Fox wants to make a splash, here's his opportunity. 5:00 PM EST, Fox Sports Net.