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Spreading Wings: Lady Vols Host Arkansas 7 PM Eastern

So that strategy of packing a zone in tight and daring the three point shooters that worked so well against A&M? Yeah, not tonight.

How many people have noticed how much more confident she's played recently?
How many people have noticed how much more confident she's played recently?
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

TV / Stream: SpourtSouth / WatchESPN (unless you live in the South)

Radio: Oh Mickey You're So Fine

Stats: Here, unless ESPN has their superior tracker available.

So last we left the Lady Vols, they were busy making our Hangout discussion look rather silly. The 76-55 win over A&M was one of their two best games this year so far (the other against North Carolina) and was the first 40 minute game in a long, long time. On top of it all, they didn't really have any post players in foul trouble despite playing on the road in a game officiated with Mattingly. So yeah, they get big kudos for basically inverting the laws of nature down in College Station.

Tonight it's Arkansas, and things will be much, much different. To wit, Arkansas has a 6'-3" forward who shoots 50% from three (as well as a couple others who are pretty good). They also have a point guard who is averagingan A/TO of roughly 3 (7.5/2.5). So ... ball distribution plus perimeter shooting? Don't expect Sunday's tight zone to work - or really to be used at all. So here's a quick look at Arkansas.

  • Head Coach Tom Collen: He probably deserves more respect than people realize. Arkansas is usually middle of the pack in terms of the talent they can bring in, but they always seem to play with a good game plan and are able to adjust well as the game progresses. That's on coaching, and you'll probably see him make some great adjustments tonight. (Heck, he did what Baylor couldn't do: win a road game at Kansas.) If you're into head coaching strategy in games, this will be one to pay attention to.
  • Can we call her Jessie? The tallest player on the team is 6'3" forward Jessica Jackson. [I would insert all the Jessie Jackson jokes here, if I weren't afraid of everybody going all politics.] Of note: she's their leading three point shooter, hitting at 50% in SEC play, hits 88% of her free throws, and plays 33 minutes per game. She's going to be a handful.
  • The best point guard you don't know. Calli Berna is the A/TO monster on the team. She'll probably be on the floor for 38 to 40 minutes so you'll get plenty of opportunity to see how good she is, but she's definitely a product of Collen coaching. She's not a stellar shooter, however, so the threat is more ball distribution than driving or three pointers.
  • Clear the bench. In conference games, Arkansas has been playing only 7 or 8 deep. Against Kentucky, it was effectively 7 as Joey Bailey had only 4 minutes. Barring foul trouble, they will try to get 30 minutes out of Jackson, Berna, Keira Peak, and Jasmine Bowen. If they get into early foul trouble, things will drop off rapidly.

So with that, here are some thoughts about what the Lady Vols can do to win:

  • Turn it into a track meet. It is a well known fact that pigs are not built for running, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the game. But the Razorbacks are very thin on depth and they are almost exclusively a halfcourt team. If they get tired, they are very vulnerable. (And that's how Kentucky managed to come back to beat them on Sunday.)
  • Man defense. This is where having tall players who can defend the perimeter is a big advantage. Jones, Burdick, Graves, and Harrison might all be asked to defend Jackson, who likely hasn't seen anybody defend her three point shooting all year long. But Tennessee has shown weaknesses against screens in man defense, and you know that Collen has picked up on that. If the Lady Vols are actually getting their act together, this is a great opportunity to prove it.
  • More of that improved guard play. Both Carter and Simmons were spectacular on Sunday. On defense, Tennessee's guards will need to be sharp to keep Berna from prying them apart. In transition, Arkansas is at a severe disadvantage.
  • Work the glass. There is absolutely no reason the rebounding stats shouldn't read something like 45 - 32 in favor of Tennessee.
  • Another 40 minute game. Now that they have the A&M win under their belt, it's a perfect time to develop a habit of solid play for a full game. They could get away with a lull in this one and win, or they can keep the throttle down and blow the lid off.

Prediction: 74 - 58 Tennessee. Scoring will start slowly, but things will open up in the second half, and Arkansas doesn't have the depth to keep up.

Lisa Mattingly ThreatCon: 2/5. Officiating the Oklahoma / KSU game last night, it seems more likely for the NCAA to have her somewhere a bit west of Knoxville. Fun trivia: guess which team, when playing at home in a game reffed by Mattingly, has twice been called for more fouls than their opponent. Hint: the answer will make Mississippi fans burn things. (Hint addendum: it's not Mississippi.)