Sometimes things don't work out like you expect. That may look like a rash of injuries, losing a key game, or getting upset in Charlottesville only to see the team that beat you destroyed by a team from Austin in advance of playing the #1 team in the nation. Guess which fate befalls the Lady Vols today?
It's their own fault, really, not that it makes any of us feel any better. This Baylor team is every bit as loaded as the teams that have beaten Tennessee the last couple of seasons (and yes, that hurts to write), and they're led by everyone's favorite heavily-fouled 6'8" center and her merry band of At Least They're Not That Other Team. The one difference between this meeting and the one last year? The venue. Is that going to make all the difference?
We know this Baylor team fairly well; Sims, Griner, and Williams are certainly familiar - the first two incredibly so - and those numbers are as accurate as can be expected. The team revolves around something we're familiar with: interior post play and a good three-point shooter in Sims. The problem is that Griner is better than anyone else we can throw out out at center, Sims has been doing the PG / scoring duties for longer, we can't use Meighan Simmons at PG for most of the game and expect to win, oh and the rest of the Bears aren't half bad. So how, exactly, do we win?
- Stricklen has to be Stricklen. While this doesn't sound like a big deal in theory, Stricklen hasn't been herself the first few games. At her best, she's dominant from anywhere outside the paint, and that matters more today than in most other weeks. Most of the rebounding and offensive gameplan is going to revolve around getting Griner out of rebounding and interior position, and that needs to begin with Stricklen.
- Baugh, Isabelle Harrison, and Glory need to slow Griner down. There's not a lot of height on Baylor aside from Griner - freshman Sune Agbuke is 6'4", but after that's it's 6'2" and below - and I don't expect them to run much Twin Towers-type ball. Agbuke at this point serves to allow Griner to rest, and while it's probably too much to expect for Griner to be stopped entirely, it's certainly possible to bracket D to deny her the ball and force her to pick up points from offensive boards. If she's getting points on set plays, we're in trouble. Then again, if we're racking up fouls we're in trouble too. Guess we better not allow either of those.
- Cover the perimeter. For all the trouble Simmons and Massengale have had on the offensive end, their defensive effort has been solid. Sims might be the best guard they've faced - even better than Miami's guards - and needs to be treated accordingly.
- Show up twice. The Ladies have had issues in the first half this season; I'm not particularly sure why they have, but they've struggled. If that happens again today this game is over before it starts. Sometimes the keys are simple; stop not showing up in the first half. Got it? And you don't get credit for showing up in the first half if you don't show up after halftime, so don't try that trick.
- Use home court advantage. We're lucky enough to have one of the few home-court advantages in the country - and if you're bored and near campus, well, this post is going up early enough for you to make it, so just go - and that needs to be used accordingly. This should help Ariel, since I think part of the Virginia struggles came from playing on the road for the first time.