22-8 (9-7 SEC)
21-8 (12-4 SEC)
The matchup we care about is at 3:30, but here is the full slate of games:
- #8 Florida / #1 Kentucky, 1 PM EST
- #7 Vanderbilt / #2 Tennessee, 3:30 PM EST
- #5 Arkansas / #4 LSU, 7:30 PM EST
- #6 South Carolina / #3 Georgia, 10 PM EST
This is the rubber match; Tennessee drilled Vanderbilt in TBA, and Vanderbilt returned the favor in Nashville. The winner moves on to play again and the loser gets ready for the NCAA tournament. The Lady Vols may be playing the same five seniors lineup that started out strong against Florida, hoping that the seniors are inspired to come out focused on their last chance in the tournaments and intent on making a statement. I don't mind Bass at point guard; even though we have BassWatch, she has been steady with the ball this year and plays well with the seniors. With Ariel Massengale's recently exposed difficulty defending dribble-drive guards, this gives Tennessee a better chance to figure out their defensive balance without risking getting Massengale into foul trouble early. (That's not to say that we don't want to see Ariel early and often.) The big hope is that Alicia's blue collar attitude bears the same results that earned her a starting gig near the turn of the calendar year; if so, she could add the spark needed to return Tennessee to playing like the athletic juggernaut of the SEC that they are.
This may very well be the most difficult game for Tennessee in the tournament. Georgia and Kentucky have more talent, but Vandy is a worse overall matchup, given the precision and patience of their offense. Add the Whistler (who will undoubtedly be annoying everyone in the gym and at home with his melodious tones), and this won't be a fun one. But then again, getting this draw first gives Tennessee a chance to prove they're ready for the NCAA tournament. Win big against Vandy, and we'll be ready to watch them win big on Saturday. Win big through the tournament, and we'll set our Will Shelton Optimism Dial™ to eleventy-threeve and dream of Denver.
But today: #beatVandy