TV: ESPN / ESPN3
Gametracker: look, I'm not linking this. It's only going to drive everyone nuts. Go find the game here instead.
Prior reading: the Metta Roberts Special
The bodies on the floor:
- Missouri, who lost to Mississippi State in rather lackluster fashion.
- Mississippi State, who then got rolled by Florida.
- Vanderbilt, who lost to Georgia in a game that should never be shown again.
- Arkansas, who completed their underwhelming season in the most underwhelming way possible, losing to Valencia McFarland and literally nothing else.
- Alabama, who got a full-blown beatemdown laid on them by one Nikki Caldwell.
- Victoria McFarland, who played Auburn close for about 30 minutes. Oh, and the rest of Ole Miss too, I guess.
- Georgia, who beat Vanderbilt and then effectively failed to show against South Carolina.
- Florida, who very nearly pulled the trifecta against Kentucky but fell to fatigue in the end.
- LSU, who built a 15 point lead against Tennessee but also fatigued, allowing a 19-0 run to turn the game.
- Auburn, whose beatemdown from A&M made Alabama feel much better about themselves.
- South Carolina, run out of the building by Kentucky before Kentucky managed to make it look like a game in the second half.
- Texas A&M, the third team to fall victim to the THUNDERDOME.
You want the breakdowns, hit the link above. Hooper did an excellent initial review of what Kentucky can and can't do well. They did a great job against South Carolina of limiting their own turnovers (4 to South Carolina's 16), which was a total outlier based on their season so far. Point blank: if they win the turnover battle by a +12 margin, they win the game.
Seriously, it was an outlier; their 5.8% turnover rate for the game was their best mark of the season by nearly a factor of two, even with South Carolina's inability to turn them over. Against Tennessee, their turnover rate was 20.9%.
Tennessee already had its one oddity of the tournament, beating LSU scoring absolutely zero points from beyond the arc. Let's hope that doesn't happen again.
Y'all know the stakes: with a win, Tennessee cuts down the nets in Duluth. What's also at stake: Tennessee has a chance to jump up to the 1 seed line with a win. South Carolina's loss yesterday means they've picked up a couple of losses at inopportune times, and with the Lady Vols making a late run, ESPN's Charlie Creme think that Tennessee's got a shot at - admittedly, the last - 1 seed. Granted, he said that after Saturday's game, but with a win today, that becomes a real thing. Stanford lost to Southern Cal last night too, so this is a Real Thing.
Is that useful? Well ...duh. I don't know what regional they'd end up in - I'm guessing Lincoln - but it puts them out of any danger of facing either UConn or Notre Dame before the Final Four. (Plus, they might get them some Kim Mulkey in the Elite Eight, because for some reason that escapes everyone Baylor's on the 2 seed line. AND YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD DODGE.)
Anyway, enough of that. What's a win today look like?
- Simmons gets at least kind of tracked. The SEC Tournament has been a study in Simmons' bad habits: playing too fast, shooting while moving, playing hero ball. The post play - yeah, we'll get to it - has been excellent, which has allowed them to carry Simmons. (In fairness, she got to the line a lot against Texas A&M, but ideally that happens in concert with shooting, y'know, 45% instead of 15%.) Kentucky depends on guard play more than LSU or Texas A&M; she needs to be on her game.
- THUNDERDOME? Look, we'll get to the refs. As we've learned in the last week, Tennessee will destroy most anyone in the post if they're allowed to play. Isabelle Harrison has been playing out of her mind, but Bashaara Graves has been two boards away from consecutive double-doubles, Cierra Burdick has been throwing up monster board numbers, and even Mercedes Russell went for 11/6 against Texas A&M. Kentucky's post game is Denesha Stallworth, Samarie Walker, and hope. Handle the ball - Kentucky will pick pockets if you give them half a chance - and get to work.
- Protect the line, protect the three. Kentucky's guard play scares me more than any team Tennessee's faced in the tournament. They're deep and while they don't shoot too well across the board, they're deep and that may be enough to be dangerous. With Ariel Massengale's absence, not getting called on hand check fouls will be paramount. I'd expect a fair chunk of zone.
- Targets: less than 0.9 points per defensive possession, more than 1.05 points per offensive possession. Tennessee hasn't lost a game all season clearing those numbers; clear those and the Lady Vols can absorb losing the turnover battle slightly.
- Mattingly: four games called with Tennessee (12/-13 (thanks, Texas!), 22/+4 (Vanderbilt), 15/0, 17/0), three games called with Kentucky (20/-5, 15/0, 22/+4)
- Roberts: two games called with Tennessee (33/+8, 24/+5 (the Kentucky game), two games called with Kentucky (19/-5, 19/0)
- Fountain: Four games called with Tennessee (24/-3, 14/-14, 15/+2, 24/+3); one game with Kentucky (22/+1)