TV: ESPN(!) / ESPN3
The Lady ‘Dores check in at 13-3, sporting a 19-point loss to Duke, closer losses to South Carolina and Marquette, a win over Georgia, and a RPI of 18. Yeah, the SEC is deep this year, how'd you know?
It sounds overly simplistic to call Vanderbilt the Christina Foggie and Jasmine Lister show, but ...well, yeah. Rebekah Dahlman has been impressive in her starts as a freshman, but had surgery to remove a blood clot about a month ago and won't be playing tonight. Absent Dahlman, Vanderibilt's the Foggie and Lister show, with both sporting a true FG% in the 60s(!), which happens when both players are shooting 40+% from beyond the arc.
Foggie averages 18.6 ppg, Lister averages 15.9 ppg, both players have an A/TO of at least 1.5, and beyond that there are a bunch of question marks. Vanderbilt's interior game (Marq'us Webb and Heather Bowe) largely seem to exist by accident, and it's probably worth noting that Webb is Vanderbilt's tallest player at a healthy 6'1". Height advantage? Check. It also stands to reason that Vanderbilt's probably going to struggle to rebound the ball, and you'd be right; Bowe leads the team with 5 rebounds/game.
Of course, the flipside of that is you can figure out Vandy's strategy pretty easily: stretch play, play a healthy dose of four-guard lineups, and force Tennessee to minimize their massive interior advantage by personnel. It probably helps that they have the bizarro world of Memorial Gym to call upon as a home-court advantage.
How can Tennessee mitigate the Foggie and Lister Show?
- Use length. Jasmine Jones can defend a shooting guard, and Ariel Massengale can be shuttled off Foggie and Lister if need be, but guard defense will matter here way more than offense, and the entry passes need to be good enough to let Tennessee's interior do their thing. Cierra Burdick is the only player I don't have a good idea of here defensively; she should have her normal offensive space, but her defensive responsibilities are the question here. Andraya Carter's played at least 23 minutes in six of the last seven games (the Lipscomb game is the lone exception); 25+ here wouldn't be out of line.
- Foul trouble. Ain't no honor in basketball. Put one of them in foul trouble and this game gets a lot easier, but with that being said:
- Don't let the weird, stupid arena get into their heads. I have strong opinions about Memorial Gym and the sideline gimmick bench. There are going to be some stupid moments from both teams, so it's on Massengale and Isabelle Harrison to keep the team in line when things start to slip. Mental discipline matters more in games in Memorial than most places; similarly, using timeouts to calm everyone down are also more valuable.
- Use length, again. Isabelle Harrison is on fire; she's 9th in the SEC in points per weighted shot (PPWS) at 1.24 (that's points / (FGA + 0.475 * FTA), for the record), good for fourth among centers and leading Tennessee by a comfortable margin, with Bashaara Graves and Massengale at 1.17 and 1.16, respectively. Or, if you'd like simpler numbers: she's on 7 double-doubles in a row, has gone off for 26, 26, 18, and 16 in her last four games, and has attempted 85 FT on the season, 49 of which have come in the double-double streak. Feed the beast. None of this should sound fair. (For the record: Mercedes Russell will grade out really high on PPWS once she starts hitting free throws, and Meighan Simmons' PPWS is 1.03, so that passes the smell test.)
- One and done. No offensive rebounds for Vanderbilt - they're not a good rebounding team and Tennessee should have the bodies to keep them off the glass. Points per possession will matter, as Vanderbilt will likely not have much trouble running should they choose to do so.
[ed - Hooper] Expect Vandy to run a lot of screens and try to draw Tennessee's posts to the perimeter before shooting. It's their best chance at open looks and offensive boards, especially if they find a hole in Russell's defensive understanding.
Prediction: 81-72 Tennessee. A two-for-one guard attack will take Tennessee some time to solve, but at the end of the day I think one of them gets shut down and Vanderbilt's lack of answers for Tennessee's interior game should be enough.
Number of stupid turnovers chalked up to the arena: 7. I hate this place.
Free run at Baylor: Tennessee beat Ole Miss by 24, thus indicating they're 17 points than Baylor which is how basketball works. (And they didn't even need the Kantner/Mattingly duo of questionable calls doom to get there.)