February 21, 2011
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, TN
7:00 PM EST
TV: ESPN2 / ESPN3
Internet Audio: :Lady Vols Network
Live Stats: :GameTracker
20-6 (10-3 SEC)
25-2 (12-0 SEC)
(I know, I know; the pink makes the links hard to read. It's the Live Pink Bleed Orange game. Think of it as squinting for the ta-tas.)
The SEC title is all but a foregone conclusion. At this point, Georgie would have to win out and Tennessee would have to lose out for Georgia to claim a share of the title, and I don't think Pat Summitt would suffer a three-game losing streak to end the season. Still, the game does have immediate meaning; win and the SEC is Tennessee's outright. Lose, and have fun getting ready for Ole Miss. With an ESPN2-televised game and what should be a vibrant crowd in attendance, this is the best atmosphere the Lady Vols will enjoy for a while.
Georgia has always been a very good team and even made the Sweet 16 last year before getting drilled by Stanford (leading to an incredibly rare case of brevity by T Kyle). If their Thursday night 69-51 pasting of Kentucky is any indication, they may be peaking at the right time as well. Unlike South Carolina, Georgia has enough height to at least make the interior competitive, and league-leading rebounder Porsha Phillips can contest Tennessee's rebounding squadron for the boards. Outside of LSU's run a few years ago, this game has usually been the best matchup in the SEC in terms of competitiveness and quality of teams.
On the upside, Georgia has turnover problems that are very similar to Tennessee. With 26 games played, Georgia has 426 turnovers for an average of 16.4 per game. Over 27 games, Tennessee has 433 turnovers for 16.0 per game. Georgia's A/TO is 0.8 and Tennessee's is 0.87, which almost makes you wonder how useful the A/TO stat is at gauging the quality of a team. (It's useful; both Tennessee and Georgia simply have too much talent for most other teams to do anything about it, and both rebound like monsters. Context matters.) So in summary, tonight features two of the best rebounding teams in the SEC with similar turnover issues, making this a potentially very interesting game in terms of ball control.
It's possible that depth will come into play, but not very likely. Georgia runs an 8-player rotation and Tennessee has recently been playing up to 10. Of the three additional bodies for Georgia, two are 6'-3" sophomore forward Anne Marie Armstrong and 6'-2" sophomore forward Ronika Ransford, making the Lady Bulldogs one of the few teams with significant size that can rotate in relief. With both Cain and Baugh battling fatigue and end-of-year bumps and bruises, this is the one matchup where Tennessee doesn't necessarily enjoy an overwhelming rotation in the interior. I'll still take Tennessee's post play over Georgia's any day, but at least Georgia has the depth and talent to take advantage of miscues.
The one place where Tennessee appears to have a tremendous advantage is tempo. Georgia simply plays a slower brand of basketball: preferring to let their defense grind it out and then work through halfcourt sets, they're the anti-Kentucky. If Tennessee can force a transition game on Georgia, the Lady Vols should be able to keep the Bulldogs off balance and a step behind. If a halfcourt game happens to break out, then Tennessee will have to rely on Lauren Avant, Kamiko Williams, and Meighan Simmons (who is much improved as a ball distributor) to direct traffic and keep Tennessee's talent in line.
In other news, Angie Bjorklund is expected to play but not start. The senior shooting guard has been out for about 4 weeks with a foot injury sustained in practice.