TV: ESPNU or ESPN3
Radio:I don't believe it
Gametracker: NO REALLY I DON'T BELIEVE IT
It's a weird scheduling twist that we're staring at Tennessee vs. Alabama Weekend in basketball play; the obvious differences between yesterday and today are, well, the men's game and the women's game and the Lady Vols' RPI being a wee bit better than 50ish, and by that I mean 6. Consider this a reminder that Lady Vol struggles are a much different animal than the men's team.
Also, it bears noting that Alabama's been a bit schizophrenic in SEC play, losing to Auburn by 22(!) at home and beating Kentucky on the road. They followed up the Kentucky win by beating Georgia, but, well, everyone can do that. Tennessee's a cut above here in theory, but that doesn't count too much when the Crimson Tide are at home; this incarnation of the Lady Vols hasn't earned carte blanche trust yet. (Although Kentucky did beat them by 22 in Tuscaloosa: schizo.)
Alabama is pretty deep; 7 players get at least 15 minutes - well, 14.8 if we want to be precise - but two others get about 10 minutes a game, which means they effectively run nine deep. With that being said, only three players are worth noting: Shafontaye Myers, Daisha Simmons, and Ashley Williams. Bama's got a lot of forwards on that depth chart, too - 6 players who get notable minutes are listed at forward (freshman Oceana Hamilton is 6'4" and a F/C type, but only gets a few minutes a half), which is a plus for Tennessee.
Speaking of plusses for Tennessee: Myers is their only good three-point shooter (41.5%) and only two players have an eFG over 50% (Myers and Williams). Two players get more than 5 boards a game (Simmons and Williams). Two players average more than 1 point per weighted shot (Myers, Williams). Oh, and even with a relatively anemic offense they're still allowing 0.966 points per possession on the season.
So how's Tennessee break this down?
- Use the Texas A&M blueprint. Simple as that - TAMU had a few players worth paying attention to; Alabama's similar but less talented, plus they're going to have issues running a bunch of heavy spacing. Nobody on this team can shoot the three either save Myers, so keep an eye on her, dare someone else to go 6-12 from beyond the arc, and kill everyone inside. Simple as that.
- Get that shot chart. Cierra Burdick's Thursday-night game had as much to do with where she was taking the shots as confidence; I barely saw a 15-footer from her. Related: Meighan Simmons has also given up the three as a guaranteed weapon and is utterly destroying everyone off the bounce. I don't necessarily like that - for one, she's going right all the time and I'm not even exaggerating - but she can hit that shot right now. More than that, those shots are open - they're midrange, sure, but they're open. (I'd like to see a couple of fast rotation plays to get her open looks in the corner; it's fun to watch how she's setting up right now.)
- Do what you do. Thursday was weird - a bunch of random injuries, no Ariel Massengale, and yet Tennessee still pulled out a pretty ugly 10-point win. Arkansas's a better team than Alabama, and provided those oddities can be avoided, Tennessee should be able to play their game. The things Alabama is good at are also the things Tennessee's good at, but they're taller, stronger, faster, and better.
Prediction: 84-61 Tennessee. Shhhhhhhhhh. Let's just act like the season's over.
Lisa Mattingly Threat Level: According to WBBState, she was in Lubbock yesterday, so low.
However, I know better; she was in Waco calling Texas for 16 more fouls than Baylor. (Yeah, she wasn't, but you'd be fooled like I was, and I ain't rewriting these last two paragraphs.) Let's take a minute to appreciate this game: 58 total fouls, 68 total FTA, four players fouling out, five others ending the game on four fouls.
But you know, Kim Mulkey, it's cool. I give you full marks for copying Tennessee's gameplan, right down to the final margin and the key ref. Except, y'know, Tennessee only needed 27 FTA and a +13 fouls against margin instead of 44 FTA, +16 fouls against, and one player didn't need to shoot 20 to lock up the W. But hey, good job. I guess it's nice to have only four conference teams in WBBState's top 75, too. It's not like Tennessee has eight or anything. (And since I know you're curious: Ole Miss is 226th in WBBState's rankings, last in the SEC by 53 spots. Alabama's 13th in the SEC at 173. Tennessee's 18th in the nation, 4th in the SEC.) BONUS SECONDARY UPDATE: Dee Kantner was in Ann Arbor yesterday, so that seems pretty safe.