20-2 (8-0 SEC)
16-4 (4-4 SEC)
The Lady Vols hit the road for Fayetteville for their final game before their "bye" (the day off in the Sunday/Thursday SEC rotation). As with the Mississippi State game, we'll assume now that the Lady Vols are favored to win and, rather than talk about why they're favored, we'll look at what should be expected of Arkansas in the game.
Analysis of the Razorbacks follows, and this comment section will be our game discussion thread as always.
Arkansas ran undefeated through their nonconference slate with their signature win a 67-57 home upset of then-#12 Oklahoma. Of their four nonconference losses, the loss to Florida looks a little less forgiveable now than it did when Florida was ranked #22, and the home loss to Ole Miss is the big upset they've been dealt. The Georgia road loss is perfectly understandable (and was a competitive 59-56 game), as was the road Vanderbilt loss. The home win against Kentucky stands out as the jewel in their SEC schedule. All in all, they're a good women's team with the capacity to upset at least the "near-elite" at home. They can also lose a puzzler or two, particular to teams that are familiar with them.
Tennessee will obviously be their biggest challenge, but their home advantage is a huge benefit for Arkansas.
Arkansas tends to run a shallow rotation; of their 17 (!!) players, four have started every game and Ashley Daniels started all but one (which she sat out due to injury). Only two bench players have played in 19 or 20 games (Yashira Delgado and Keira Peak, respectively); two played in 14, two played in 10, and three are candidates for Club Trillion. Against Tennessee, I'd expect to see only seven players get significant time, with perhaps a couple others rotated in for foul trouble concerns or to give starters breathers until the next media timeout.
The strength of Arkansas is that they know their roles well. Ashely Daniels is the rebounder, and Sarah Watkins and C'iera Ricketts are the inside-outside scoring threats. Keira Peak rotates in to primarily spell as the rebounder. The offense is keyed off of Ricketts, who serves as point and primary shooting guard. She loves to drive to the basket, which is why she leads the team in free throw attempts (4.8 / game).
Arkansas is one of the better shooting teams that Tennessee will face in conference, hitting 41% of their field goals and 34% from three. All seven of their primary players average better than 35% from the field, making them one of the few teams without a true Stephen Pearl on the roster. So far, they're averaging nearly 65.8 points/game (59.6 in SEC play ) and allowing 57.2 overall / 59.8 in conference.
Offense / Defense Strategies
On offense, Arkansas will look for one of two options: the pass into Watson or the drive by Ricketts. If neither of those are available, they will then pass around and see if one of the plan B players can get open. Ideally, they will continually come back to Ricketts and Watson throughout the shotclock. Lyndsey Harris is their three-point shooter and takes about 57% of all the team's three attempts. Overall, they don't shoot a lot from three (14 per game), but it's enough to keep the defense honest.
On defense, Arkansas has much better size than most of the SEC. With three starters above 6 feet tall and two at 5'-9", they won't have near the "over-the-head" problems that South Carolina did. Still, they've been getting outrebounded in conference (294 to 322), with most of the deficit on the offensive glass. With their size, Arkansas is more likely to try to zone Tennessee and keep the action in front of them. For as much as Watson means to the team, she's not likely able to handle Cain one-on-one, so the best option is to keep the ball from getting inside and hope that Tennessee's deep shooters run cold.
While Kentucky and Georgia are the teams most likely to upset Tennessee, Arkansas would be the one most likely to pull it off because Tennessee underestimates then. They hover near top-25 rankings, are playing at home and have a well-defined team chemistry. They don't have the athleticism to keep up with Tennessee and are probably short on sleep trying to figure out how to slow down Glory Johnson. But if Tennessee thinks they can coast in this game, they can do a far better job of keeping up the offense than Mississippi State.
Still, you have to think Tennessee learned their lesson on Thursday, and that the lesson will stick at least through this game. 82 - 64 Tennessee wins.
Brianna Bass at the under-eight in the second half.