The season is in full swing with the biggest opening week matchup in women's basketball. Featuring two teams that want to press, keep the tempo high, and play at full speed, the game will likely be a wild affair in Knoxville. The game will also be a strong test for Tennessee's guards, as Miami features one of the best point guard / shooting guard combos in the nation. A roster breakdown and some quick comments follow after the jump.
The obvious threat is revealed in the stats: preseason All-American Shenise Johnson very nearly opened up the season with a triple-double. A quadruple-double, actually, as the 8 steals do not show up in our preview table. She is the clear leader of this team and will be the toughest challenge for Tennessee. If either her scoring or her assists can be shut down, Tennessee will be in good standing to come out with a win. If she can post similar numbers to those she created against Texas-Pan American, it could be a long night for the home team.
Shenise's compadre in the backcourt is Riquna Williams, a member of the preseason Wooden Award watch list. Shutting down Miami not only involves shutting down Shenise, but Riquna as well. In previous years, Tennessee's larger, slower defenders would have struggled to keep up with these two. The speed is now present, but the experience a bit lacking as Ariel and Meighan will be assigned tough defensive duty against the pair.
The interior should be much friendlier to Tennessee, as Baugh, Stricklen, and Johnson will present matchup difficulties for the Lady Canes. Sharp play by Tennessee's forwards and posts can make life difficult for Miami, and if Tennessee can exploit their ability to run in transition, the opportunity is present to force Miami into foul trouble that could be key toward the end of the game.
Both teams love man coverage, full-court pressure, and transition basketball. Both will likely try to push the tempo faster and faster to see who can maintain composure and who will lose control, so the team that can dictate when tempo speeds up and slows down will be at a considerable advantage.
Prediction: 72-63 Tennessee