Television / Streaming: Keep your TV on the NFL, stream the Lady Vols.
So the Ladies are back in action after the Christmas break. Cutting to the chase: Lipscomb is 3-7 and #259 in RPI, and they lost one of their key starters after the first game of the season. So this is not a game to dwell on what Tennessee must do to win. (If they manage to lose, everything will burn anyhow.) Let's keep things short and give enough to be familiar with some of the names on the floor.
- Key Lipscomb player: Ashley Southern. The 6'-1" sophomore forward is averaging a double-double on the season (16.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg), shooting about 40% from the field and 74% from the line. She's not a three-point threat (11%), so stopping her looks inside will be a big part of stopping Lipscomb's offense.
- After the starters, things drop off quickly. This is systemic among smaller programs, but the starters average 30+ min/game (rounding up Sara Bliss's 29.2 minutes) and all average double figures in scoring except for point guard Maya Dillard (7.1 ppg and 4.4 apg). If a starter gets in foul trouble early, the difference should be immediately apparent on the floor.
- 80 possessions per game. So even factoring that one game was at Kentucky, that's still a relatively fast pace of play. If nothing else, there should be a lot of running in this game, which is always fun.
And what we'd like to see from Tennessee:
- A fast first half start. We all know that starting fast in the first half against Lipscomb isn't like a fast start vs. ... well ... Stanford (/cough). Still, it would be a better sign than a slow start, yes? The first 10 minutes have been the bane of the Lady Vols for pretty much the whole season. It would be great to see them come out sharp, especially after the extended holiday break.
- Harrison's continued foul management. Recently, Izzy's actually done well about not picking up two very quick fouls. More of this, please.
- Continued role defining for Simmons and Burdick. With the wealth of post players at UT, Burdick's role has changed somewhat from previous years. I like her as the paired option with Russell, where Cierra's experience can really help Mercedes out. (It keeps Harrison, Graves, and Burdick from stepping all over each other and spreads out the scorers, which is also nice.)
Simmons, on the other hand ... well ... hmm. Chris will have some fascinating information about her later on, but let's just say for now that there are some issues with her game that need addressed. This isn't a game where those issues will be fixed by any means, but maybe Holly can find ways to limit the opportunities for those issues to crop up. (Hint: if there are more than, say, three SIMMONS NO comments in the thread today, these issues are present.)
- More non-Ariel point guard experience. We've seen Holly address this earlier, but Massengale is so good at the point right now that the dropoff to Carter/Reynolds is pretty huge. If the Ladies get their quick start (ahem), then other guards can get some live work. This could be a big deal for that one upcoming game that Massengale gets in foul trouble.
Prediction: 104 - 52 Tennessee. A nice, tidy doubling up to end the year.
Time of last single-digit lead: the first media timeout. Even if it comes off of a bunch of miss/O-board/miss/O-board/repeat sequences.