2011 started off well for the Ladies with a victory in Baton Rouge against their traditional SEC rival LSU, and Tennessee now looks to follow up the win with a second against Alabama in the friendly confines of Thompson Boling Arena. Meanwhile, Alabama is coming off a stinging loss to Auburn and looks to get back on track in the conference. This game highlights the difference between Tennessee and all but a handful of schools in the nation, as the following overview of the rosters will show.
Let's start with the positive for Alabama: they start three seniors who have all had good careers for the elephant. They have a remarkably low turnover rate on the year and shouldn't be expected to be sloppy with the ball. However, they will have a very difficult time matching Tennessee's size, particularly with UT's recently-voracious perimeter rotation. The Tide does have a 6'-4" junior in Carmen McCoy, but she averages only 9 minutes a game in relief and can't be expected to take on whichever of Cain, Johnson, Brewer, or Baugh are on the floor without some help.
Alabama's offense is, in two words, Tierney Jenkins. The gal averages a double-double and is far and away their most productive player. Most assists are on baskets that she scores, and her rebounding is the only reason the Tide have outrebounded their opponents on the year (610 to 600). Stop Jenkins and you stop Alabama. It's really that simple.
Fortunately for Alabama, they're a defense-first team. Their opponents have averaged 63 points a game off 39% shooting, along with 26 turnovers per game. Tennessee has so many offensive weapons that Alabama will have a very difficult time defending them all, but Alabama can disrupt passing and cut down the number of effective possessions that Tennessee has if the Lady Vols don't make smart decisions and show that they value each possession. I don't think Alabama can keep up with Tennessee's interior at all, so their only hope is to keep the ball from ever getting inside, then contesting the shots from the perimeter shooters. If it turns into a fast-break game, Alabama won't stand a chance. In the halfcourt, Alabama will have much better odds. Whether those odds are enough will be the story of the night.
There's not much to say of this game that you can't already guess. Alabama has a 11-3 record, but it has come against far weaker competition than the Lady Vols (hence the difference in rankings). This is Tennessee's game to win or lose, as the talent differential is just too large for Alabama to win without significant miscues by the Lady Vols.