TV: SportSouth / ESPN3
Radio: Oh, Good Grief.
A couple quick notes: Tennessee is 45-15 all-time against Georgia, which gives Georgia one of the more respectable marks against the Lady Vols. Tennessee has won the last 5 in a row. Also, we actually do like Andy Landers. But anymore, it's easier for us to assume a Tennessee win and be obnoxious about it.
The Bulldogs are a solid team this year, though not at the levels they probably expect to be. At #39 in RPI, they have a 12-2 record on a #137 Strength of Schedule. The two losses came to Rutgers (58-61) and Vanderbilt (58-66), both on the road. Their best wins are probably Ohio State (53-49) and Georgia Tech (63-56), both at home. If you didn't notice, they're not exactly a team to light up the scoreboard. With only 72 possessions per game, they score 0.97 points per possession and allow 0.72 points per possession (though, again, that SoS). They don't get to the line a lot, with a Free Throw Rate of 13% (conference average is 17.9% and Tennessee's is 18.2%). In other words, if Georgia has their way, it'll be a halfcourt game with many possessions going deep into the shot clock and not a lot of fouls.
Did I mention the #137 SoS? It seems entirely appropriate to note that Baylor is at #134, so you'll pardon us if we don't exactly think much of Georgia's schedule to date. (But given that loss to Kentucky, I'm sure Mulkey wouldn't mind a straight-up trade in hindsight.)
So what to watch for?
- Priority #1 is Shacobia Barbee. The sophomore guard/forward is second in points (11.8), first in assists (4.67), first in steals (2.75), and first in time (31.6). The offense goes through her, and at 5'-10", it's entirely possible that much of her production came off mismatches either as a tall guard or a quick three against lesser teams. Still, she gets the ball a lot and the steals are something that the Lady Vols need to be mindful of.
- Last call for Khaalidah Miller. It feels like she's been on this team forever. The senior guard gets 11.7 points, 4.5 boards, and 3.4 assists per game. Shes also the most likely to attempt a three-pointer (5.7 3PA / game, making 32% of them).
- It's a team of guards. The aforementioned players are 2 and 3 in points per game, respectively. Leading the team is Tiaria Griffin, who doesn't even start. In 24 min/game, she gets 13.4 points (on 11 shots) and is probably the best free throw shooter on the team (72%, which is okay but not great; more on this in a second). In fact, guards comprise the top 5 scorers, with forward Merritt Hempe coming in 6th at 8 ppg. Much of this game will see a lineup of 4 guards on the floor for Georgia, hence the guard/forward moniker that three of their players carry.
- Georgia will be significantly shorter than Tennessee. Their two tallest players - Glodis and Causwell - play Nia Moore levels of minutes, leaving only Hempe and Washington at 6'-2" as players above the six foot mark. The guards aren't short, but that lack of interior presence means that Tennessee can absolutely go nuts in the paint.
Okay, so for Tennessee to win:
- Own the interior. Boards, points, fouls ... everything. For about 38 minutes of this game, Tennessee will average an additional 3-4 inches / player in the interior, and those players will be much more highly regarded. Harrison's been going off recently; that can continue. If Tennessee plays to their potential in the paint (and if they bother to rebound /coughcoughLSUlosscoughcough), Georgia will be in deep trouble.
- Take care of the ball. This speaks to the second half of the LSU disaster: Georgia relies on steals to make up for their weakness in the interior. Tennessee has to, you know, get the ball inside before that advantage can come to play.
- Be willing to risk fouls to disrupt Georgia's offense. UGA requires rhythm on offense to be successful, and they're not particularly good at free throws (60% as a team, with 72% the highwater mark for anybody who has more than 10 attempts). Assuming Tennessee gets through the first half without being too deep in foul counts, they can keep Georgia from sustaining offense in the second half by riding the edge of the whistles. (Insert prayers to avoid Lisa Mattingly here.)
- Make them run. Again, despite being a guard-oriented team, Georgia really isn't built for 40 minutes of suicides. They run 9 deep, but performance drops dramatically from the starters to the bench. The press worked wonders against LSU; if Tennessee can press without losing assignments in the halfcourt, it can have similar success today.
Prediction: 87 - 68 Tennessee. I think Georgia is not as good as they have been regarded to be this year. Their Bayloresque schedule has also not prepared them for tougher matchups. If Tennessee can force the inside game, the Dawgs will run out of interior depth in a hurry, leaving Harrison, Graves, and Russell uncontested.
A/TO for Tennessee: About 1.4. I still see about 14 turnovers, but also about 20 assists, largely on the strength of entry passes to Harrison.