Time: 7 PM EST
Not to belabor the point I've made in previous writings, but I really, really like the starting five that Tennessee has assembled. All five players fit offensive and defensive roles that mesh together nicely, and lately their passing and overall chemistry has significantly improved. So instead of repeating the same observations on them, let's take a look at Dayton.
Dayton's leader is Kendel Ross, the only senior on the roster. While her season-long diary seems to have fallen through, she's filling the role of last year's Alexis Fuller and is giving leadership to a very young squad. She's not a stat leader in any department, but is more of a 'glue' player, bonding the pieces together. Their point guard is Patrice Lalor, a sophomore short-stuff who leads in assists for the team. Stopping Dayton's offense often means confounding Lalor, so I expect Manning to draw this assignment if Tennessee plays man defense.
Dayton also has a decent interior game. They only shoot about 15-17 three-pointers a game and get the bulk of their points from forward Raterman and shooting guard Daugherty. They like to penetrate and play off the dribble; if they're successful at it, it exposes Cain and Brewer to potential foul trouble as a lot of bodies will be swarming the paint. If UT defends it well, then there will be many great opportunities for turnovers and fast breaks along the Post Highway.
Defensively, Dayton has the size to play solid in the interior. Center Casey Nance is one of the rare women's players who sizes up reasonably well with Kelley Cain. She's a good interior player and will provide a great opportunity for Cain to prepare for quality interior defenders in the Sweet 16. (Aside: yes, I'm anticipating the Lady Vols winning.) The real question is whether Dayton can contain Shekinna Stricklen. They've never seen a point guard of her size and length, which will cause big problems on ball screens and defending perimeter shots. If Dayton tries to double her off the dribble, Stricklen has the size to be able to pass to the open player. If they don't provide help, she's simply too tall for most guards to contain. With so much attention paid to Cain and Brewer in the middle, Stricklen has a real chance to shine tonight.