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Tennessee vs Army Preview

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Military Appreciation Night should bring fast paced action to Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday night.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Here's an interesting conversation:

Can Tennessee avoid putting a "bad lineup" on the court at times, at least for now?

The Vols have four players averaging 30+ minutes in the first four games.  The last time that's happened around here in a full season could be never.  The Vols' Elite Eight squad in 2010 had no player average more than 27.7 minutes (Scotty Hopson).  The 2008 squad that went to number one had no player average more than 29.8 (Chris Lofton).  Buzz Peterson regularly played lineups with three guys getting 30+ minutes, but not four.

Rick Barnes is living and dying with Punter, Hubbs, Moore, and the minutes suggest he wants to add Devon Baulkman to that list.  If Baulkman has more games like the 22 he poured in against Gardner Webb, the more the merrier.  But it's not quite as merry off the bench.  Derek Reese, the fifth starter, is giving 22 minutes a night with 3.3 points (and 8.8 rebounds, where he's done a great job).  Detrick Mostella hasn't gotten warm from the arc in his 18 minutes a night, shooting just 23.5% from three and averaging 4.8 points.  The Vols are getting good value out of Jabari McGhee with 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes, we'll see if that leads to an increase in his minutes.

Still, that's just seven players for a team playing a faster tempo.  Four games in none of the newcomers have established their footing in the rotation, all four averaging between two and seven minutes and less than two points per game.  But unless Rick Barnes wants to drastically change the style the Vols have shown thus far, a couple of these guys simply have to play.  And as they find their way, there are going to be times when Tennessee simply isn't as productive.

Good news:  the 12th fastest pace in basketball comes calling tonight.  Possible surprise:  it's Army.

The Black Knights ripped through three cupcakes before falling to Tennessee's next opponent and Virginia-beater George Washington 92-81.  Army started 14-6 (5-4 Patriot League) before the wheels came off last year, losing 9 of their last 10 games.  There are lots of people smarter than me, including Rick Barnes, who think this will be Tennessee's toughest game so far.

Army is a two-man show statistically:  6'7" senior Tanner Plomb averages 20.8 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 39.4% from the arc.  Fellow senior Kyle Wilson gives another 20.8 points from his guard position and is 17 of 34 from the three point line this year.  In four games the Black Knights are shooting 51.4% from the floor and 42.0% from the arc.  And so far they've been strong at keeping the other team off the three ball, with opponents shooting just 25% from three against them.

Tennessee obviously isn't known as a defensive juggernaut, but the Vols haven't really been burned by the three so far this year.  UT allows opponents to shoot 26.3% from the arc and just 37.6% overall so far, probably better numbers than you thought with so much going up and down the floor.  But Army should challenge those numbers and Tennessee's legs.  The Vols will either need to respond defensively, or be prepared to score 90+ points.

It's Military Appreciation Night at Thompson-Boling, as current military members, veterans, and their immediate families can get in free and there are a number of special events planned.  The Vols and Black Knights tip at 7:00 PM ET on the SEC Network.