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Tennessee vs. UNC-Asheville Game Preview

Bruce Pearl goes for his 100th win as Tennessee's head coach tonight against the Bulldogs of UNC-Asheville (7:00 PM EST, Fox Sports South).  It's game two for the Vols this season, and the final tuneup before heading to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam Tournament this weekend.  The Vols opened the season with an 83-54 win over Austin Peay, and look to improve to 7-0 all time against UNC-Asheville.

The Bulldogs are 0-1 on the year after losing 86-70 at future Tennessee opponent "don't call us UNC-"Charlotte.  The Bulldogs got 22 points from guard Chris Stephenson and 15 from Rocky Top League vet J.P. Primm, but were outrebounded by 17 and hacked their way to defeat:  Charlotte shot 40 free throws, UNC-Asheville shot 10.  For a Tennessee team that continued their yearly struggles at the charity stripe in the season opener (5 for 11), I don't know if that's good or bad.

What I do know is that last year when these two teams met, Tyler Smith recorded the only triple-double in the history of Tennessee Basketball.  The Vols got what they expected from Tyler and Wayne Chism in the opener, with each contributing a double-double.  You don't want to formulate too many storylines after just one game, but here's what we'll be watching for tonight:

  • Consistency from Scotty Hopson.  We won't truly be able to buy into Hopson's maturation process until we see him play well against good teams, but if you want to believe, the season opener was a good start:  Hopson led the Vols in scoring with 16 points and was 4 of 6 from beyond the arc against Austin Peay - will he play that well again, and can we expect that sort of performance from him all season?
  • Who gets more minutes:  J.P. Prince or Cameron Tatum?  Prince is the starter and the seasoned, multitasking veteran, but Tatum was right behind Hopson on Friday night against Austin Peay with 15 points on 3 of 6 beyond the arc, and got 22 minutes to Prince's 17.  As rotations continue to be established, this will be an interesting battle to watch.
  • Will we get to use "Skylar McBee....FOR THREE!"  The Vols' walk-on shooting specialist went 0-4 in his opener, though he showed up well in all other aspects.  Everyone in the arena wants to see him get hot, a factor that's increased by the memories of Chris Lofton plus the anemic three point shooting the Vols put up last year (31.5%).  He needs to knock one down to breathe a sigh of relief...and then let's see what he can do.

We'll be here with the live game thread for tipoff at 7:00...see you then.