Gametracker: Watch this game get way out of hand here, too
Tennessee's attempt to emulate Baylor's early-season scheduling continues unabated, with the now-78th ranked team by RPI facing off against a team they beat by 51 last year in the Tennessee State Tigers. The good news: Tennessee State has a win this year thanks to a 73-55 triumph over Lipscomb. They're not getting another one tonight, but you knew that as soon as you clicked on this link.
The Lady Vols looked a little sloppy against Winthrop; the final margin was comfortable and the game wasn't really in doubt, but they also could've built a small house with the amount of bricks they laid. Cierra Burdick anti-led the way with an 0-for-8 line, but Alexa Middleton (2-for-10) and Andraya Carter (3-for-11) contributed to the clankfest. On the other hand, they also forced 34 Winthrop turnovers.
With yet another effective exhibition/filmed practice on our hands, what are we going to look for?
First off: we're not going to look for Jannah Tucker (injured and/or suspended, not that it matters), and we're likely not going to look for Isabelle Harrison (sprained MCL) or Jasmine Jones (concussion) because there's no reason for either of them to play in this game. We might see those latter two on Wednesday if they can go just to get them some game experience before a showdown against Texas at the end of the month.
Lots of pressure. Tennessee ran a full-court press for nearly 40 minutes against Winthrop, which was successful in forcing turnovers. Winthrop wasn't able to go over the top much, but were successful when they did. Tennessee State is tiny with only two players-both little used-over 6 feet. Tennessee has height to spare, but you knew that already.
Getting shooting on track. The most consistent players so far have been Nia Moore and Bashaara Graves (post game don't slump), but even the players struggling to get their shooting stroke tracked-basically, the rest of the team-are contributing in other ways. Burdick's obviously example 1 here, but even she contributed 10 boards. Getting closer to the basket should help her some, especially with the post rotation still checking in as pretty thin. Aside from her, Carter's been filling the stat sheet (9 points, 5 boards, 3 assists, 6 steals against Winthrop) and the freshmen trio of Middleton, Jamie Nared, and Kortney Dunbar have been contributing in other ways, too.
Stellar point guard play. Holly Warlick spent some time against Winthrop with both Ariel Massengale and Jordan Reynolds on the floor (sometimes even with Carter), giving the Lady Vols two points. Massengale's displayed a better trigger again this year, and Reynolds' distribution game has gotten much better. Stay tuned to see how this shakes out as everyone warms up, but Tennessee now has four players (counting Middleton) who can play the point for at least a few minutes. The Phoenix Suns did a lot with two-PG lineups last year; it can work for the Lady Vols, too.
Who's playing at what pace. The weird thing about the Winthrop game was the different speeds everyone was playing at. Burdick in particular was obviously playing a half-step behind everyone else; Carter and Massengale at times were a half-step ahead. This is a more dynamic offense than we saw last year and the team as a whole is faster, but that only means so much if the team isn't all playing at the same pace. This should improve with more time together, but is probably the most interesting thing. (The freshmen are the obvious ones struggling with pace; Middleton seems fine enough, but Dunbar and Nared fade in and out of sync.)
Enjoy the exhibition game, because this will be ugly, even if the Lady Vols struggle.
PREDICTION: 103-36 Tennessee. (Hooper's chiming in with 102-41 because he doesn't believe in this team as much as I do, clearly, although it's worth noting he revised his prediction four times.)
KANTNER/MATTINGLY THREAT LEVEL: Present and waiting. Although if you saw the Missouri game, they're not going to be much more oblivious than that squad.
DUNBAR'S DOMINANCE: 6 points, 3 boards, 2 assists.