24-8 (10-6 SEC)
31-2 (16-0 SEC)
The Lady Vols continue their quest for their ninth national championship by hosting the Marquette Golden Eagles in Knoxville for round two of the tournament. Tennessee officially earned their de facto round one win in a 99-34 thriller against Stetson, while Marquette battled Texas for a 68-65 win off a closing-seconds three point shot and a great get-back hustle defensive stand that prevented Texas from getting a shot off before the buzzer.
We'll take a look at the roster matchups after the jump, along with the return of score predictions and BassWatch™.
The first obvious note about Marquette is that they don't give up the gaping size differential to Tennessee that most teams do. When you start looking at bench depth (more on that in a bit), the difference is noticeable, but this isn't a game where Tennessee can simply pass over Marquette's head all day long. For this reason, this will be a far better bellwether of Tennessee's readiness for the upper rounds of the tournament than the 1-v-16 was. (And for sake of simplicity, I will assume a Tennessee victory while writing. I can do that; the Ladies can't.)
Marquette is a "rebound by committee" team. They don't have a dominant rebounder, and their point guard is second on their roster in terms of rebounds/game. They all crash boards and rely on each other, making Tennessee's box-outs of high importance if Tennessee wishes to enjoy their usual rebounding advantage.
Marquette is a decent ball control club, with only a few more turnovers (545) than assists (522) on the year (which is a little bit better than Tennessee's 478 assists and 528 turnovers). Marquette will have to be a clearly better ball control club than Tennessee if they want to overcome Tennessee's many scoring options.
I anticipate another high-tempo game with Tennessee getting more fast breaks and transition points than Marquette. They'll start a little slow and let Marquette hang around until about the first media timeout, at which point Tennessee will go on their first big run and we fans can relax. Marquette beat Texas only because the referees let the girls play, and Marquette's more aggressive defensive strategy paid dividends without sending Texas to the free throw line, but they did not show the talent and explosiveness necessary to keep up with Tennessee on Pat Summitt's own floor. The lead will be over 10 at halftime and the second half will be a chance for the Lady Vols to continue working on their game-closing focus for the later rounds.
(This isn't rocket science; it's pretty much the same script Tennessee has followed for the last few weeks.)
Prediction: 85 - 58 Tennessee wins.
BassWatch™: final media timeout of the second half