The Lady Vols take to the road for their first game away from Knoxville this season. Virginia was once a power in women's basketball and even played against Tennessee in the 1991 national championship, but have been in transition recently. Virginia is 2-13 against Tennessee all-time, but hopes to make an unlikely turnaround with first year head coach Joanne Boyle.
Seniors Ariana Moorer and Chelsea Shine are familiar with the Lady Vols, having beaten Tennessee in Knoxville in 2008 (the year of the Baby Vols). The freshmen they faced are now also seniors, and the difference is striking. The same Lady Vols who were criticized for not taking the season seriously enough have started the season with a tenacity that would have made their freshmen selves cower.
It is difficult to say how good Virginia is, particularly since information is scant so far this year. They are 3-0 and holding their opponents to 42 points per game, but those opponents are Appalachian State, Providence, and High Point - three schools not known for women's basketball. They are averaging 40% from the field and 65% from the line, which is probably not where they want to be, given their opposition. Virginia also averages just under 13 assist and 16 turnovers per game, for an A/TO of 0.8 - also not where they'd like to be. But they do cause 13 steals per game, which suggests a certain aggressiveness
Unlike last year, Tennessee will not enjoy a massive height advantage, as Virginia basically matches them inch for inch. Also unlike last year, Tennessee plays with an athleticism, aggressiveness, and tempo that has not been seen at Rocky Top for a long time, and Virginia's early schedule has not challenged the Cavaliers in the way Tennessee will.
The Lady Vols have national championship aspirations this year. If they wish to fulfill those hopes, this is a game they must win convincingly. Virginia has talent and would love to pull the headliner upset, but Tennessee knows they need to erase all doubts early. Virginia will fight hard, but this should be over well in the first half.
My Prediction: Tennessee 98, Virginia 61
My BassWatch™: 5:00 left in the first half.
Pendley's Prediction: Tennessee 95, Virginia 67
Pendley's BassWatch™: 4:30 left in the first half.