Tennessee's basketball programs are both in action this afternoon and both will face significant challenges. The men host #15 Butler, 8-1 and rolling behind great defensive play. The #11 Lady Vols are on the road to face #17 Rutgers, also 8-1. The Vols tip at 2:05 on ESPNU, the Ladies at 3:00 on ESPN2.
The men will have to get it done without big man Dominic Woodson, whose Tennessee career lasted all of two months. After transferring in from Memphis, Woodson will now move on from Tennessee. He had already taken the last two weeks off for academic concerns. Tennessee's options at the five now become three true freshmen, all of whom lack Woodson's beef: 6'8" 210 Willie Carmichael, 6'8" 210 Jabari McGhee, and 6'10" 205 Tariq Owens. There's plenty of basketball and growth ahead for all three, but for at least this year the Vols will be significantly out-muscled on paper. We'll see what Donnie Tyndall's squad can do to make up the difference on the floor.
The Ladies, on the other hand are getting full use of their big as Isabelle Harrison is slated to start today. She did have 22 minutes against Lipscomb in the traditional work-back-into-game-form-against-an-overmatched-opponent-game, and now we'll see if her return can be part of the magic sauce to get this team out of the funk that saw them lose to Chattanooga and Texas. Against the lesser teams, the Lady Vols are athletic enough and have a deep enough bench to simply overwhelm. Against anything that is evidently UT-C level and up, the decision-making and defense haven't been solid enough to avoid bad first half deficits.
No Lady Vol preview is complete without bullet points, so:
Rutgers is an improved team. The Lady Vols haven't lost in the last 9 against C. Vivian, but that could certainly end today if the Ladies don't play smarter on both sides of the ball, such as ...
HAHAhahaha no seriously don't pass up the open corner three. The big offensive woe for the LVs is their tendency to pass up the smart play (e.g. a wide open corner three) for a harder, higher-risk/lower-reward play (e.g. a contested midrange jumper).
- Just keep figuring out the defense. I honestly believe a large part of the defensive problems stem from playing so many cupcakes to start the year. The defense was never really challenged until Chatt, so they never had a chance to find their weaknesses (communication, spacing, rotating, not staring down their assignment).
- Obligatory prediction: 76 - 68 Tennessee, with a late break at the end. This prediction is null and void if Tennessee lets Rutgers roll out a 15 point lead in the first half, though.
- Obligatory links: Sights / Sounds / Stats
This is your open thread for both games this afternoon, as both teams try to get what would be their biggest wins of the season.