TV: Fox Sports South
Internet TV: nope?
Internet audio: Mickey complaining about the refs
Gametracker: not as nice as last year but it's not NeuLion
The 2012-2013 out-of-conference return game series continues apace tonight with a matchup against Georgia Tech. When we last left Atlanta, the Lady Vols were pulling out a 71-54 win over a then-ranked GT squad, who then hit the skids. They finished last year 14-16 but picked up the commitment of Kaela Davis, a 6'2" shooting guard. Davis, lest we forget, is not Mercedes Russell but she was the #2 overall recruit in the 2013 class so she's, well, pretty good.
Davis has acclimated well to the college game, notching 20 points and 11 boards against Coppin State and a 20/10 against Western Carolina. Those of you who understand strength of schedule - that is, all of you - can probably recognize that Tennessee is a slight step up in difficulty from minerals and directional colleges.
Beyond Davis? Well, GT has a lot of players who, well, were on a 14-16 team last year. It's not a stretch at all to assume that Tennessee's defense and offense is way better than anything the Queen Bees have seen so far. (And no, that's not their actual name but it should be.) Sydney Wallace (5/11 from beyond the arc), Roddreka Rogers, Donniazha Fountain, and Shayla Bivins are the other starters. Rogers is probably the only one of the lot to worry about, even though Bivins is 6'5". Also, Nariah Taylor (6'5") has 9 fouls in 2 games and 29 minutes, so ...good hustle, I suppose. She's the backup center.
How does this game shake down?
- Both halves, please. Second half against MTSU, first half against North Carolina, second half against Chattanooga: that Lady Vol squad can hang with anyone. First half against MTSU and first half against Chattanooga: anyone can hang with that Lady Vol squad. (The second half against North Carolina looked similar by point totals, but that was a good team on the road.) A 40-minute effort would be nice; quite frankly, it's not like they need it, which is a testament to how team quality, but, well, you know, play the whole game and all.
- Use the interior. Georgia Tech doesn't have an answer for Basahara Graves, Isabelle Harrison, or Mercedes Russell; well, technically they do have an answer, but the answer probably consists of "let's foul EVERYBODY!" and Graves goes 17-22 from the line. Again, Nariah Taylor is averaging one foul per 3.2 minutes, give or take. The Queen Bees have height but I'm guessing they don't have quickness, which means Graves and Harrison could do hideous, enjoyable things to GT. In Russell's case, her movement and decision-making against UTC was way better, so more of that, please. (Also, please shoot at least 50% from the line at some point. This will matter, and it'll matter soon.)
- Guard showdown. If Andraya Carter doesn't get Kaela Davis' credit card number by the end of this game, I'll be surprised; Carter's the best perimeter defender on this team and Tennessee's best chance for keeping Davis on lockdown. On the offensive end, a gunning shooting guard who can score is like catnip for Meighan Simmons, so, well, please at least be smart about those 15 shots you're taking tonight, Simmons.
- Roles and (re)surgences. Ariel Massengale has gone off everywhere to start the season; she was already reliable going into the year but her scoring - and willingness to call her own number - is a welcome sight. She's been on a roll; keep it up. On the other side sit Simmons and Cierra Burdick. Simmons' problems are documented by this point but roughly translate to pushing the issue - contain your shock. While Tennessee can succeed without her shooting over 50%, shooting in the 30% range is not a good sign for the long-term viability of this team. Getting that back on track sooner rather than later matters. In Burdick's case, she's in this weird spot where she's the fifth scoring option in the starting lineup right now. This isn't the worst thing, but if her game is working with margins, shooting 23% from the floor isn't going to cut it.. The rest of her game is fine, but please to avoid taking a bunch of low-percentage midrange shots.
Although Davis will be a star sooner rather than later, it won't be enough, at least not if my first concerns with this game are getting Simmons' and Burdick's shots back. Prediction: 83-60 Tennessee. If nothing else, the games have been pretty consistently in this range so far this year. I think Davis will get hers, but beyond that Tech will limp to the 35-40 point range. I'm 98% sure Davis is the real deal.
Empty Bench Check: Yup - both Jordan Reynolds and Nia Moore get at least 5 minutes.