Back in Thompson-Boling for the first time since November 24, Tennessee looks to bounce back from a tough three game skid following losses in Brooklyn and at Butler. Good news: Florida Atlantic should provide an opportunity to do just that.
FAU is the worst team Tennessee has faced this year and should be the low man on the schedule for the whole season. The Owls are 273rd in KenPom as of Tuesday afternoon, 2-7 with wins over Miami OH (221 in KenPom) and Ave Maria of NAIA fame. Their six losses include a 75-72 setback to Warner Southern, another NAIA school, a two point loss to Northeastern, and four losses between 14-26 points against Michigan State, Lipscomb, East Carolina, and Central Florida. They actually played a game last night, losing 80-73 at Eastern Kentucky.
The Owls are led by 6'9" C.J. Turman, a former Cuonzo Martin signee who asked for and was granted his release when Donnie Tyndall arrived. Turman leads FAU in points and rebounds.
Des Oliver on @KNSSportspage says FAU's CJ Turman, a former Tennessee signee, would probably start for the Vols and be the best big man.— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) December 15, 2015
So this could be a challenge for Tennessee's post defense, with Kyle Alexander and Ray Kasongo still struggling to establish themselves early. Alexander averages 7.4 minutes but only 0.6 points and 1.6 rebounds; Kasongo gets 4.9 minutes but just 1.1 points and rebounds. Derek Reese continues to be a nice supplement to Armani Moroe on the glass as the team's second-leading rebounder at 7.1 in 22.3 minutes.
But Tennessee's offense continues to impress and improve. After a nearly-50% from the floor day at Butler the Vols are up to 64th nationally in KenPom's offensive ratings. The Vols' most impressive stat? Tennessee is 10th in the nation in fewest turnovers, just 81 in eight games. That's incredibly impressive having played two really good teams away from home, having a brand new coaching staff, and no true point guard.
I'm not sure if Tennessee is good enough to just show up and beat anybody, but if the offense is clicking again I think they can run away from this team despite the post deficiencies. Simply trying to get better and win the games they should win can position Tennessee to be alive in NIT conversations as conference play rolls around in a stronger SEC.
The Vols and Owls tip at 7:00 PM ET on the online-only SEC Network+.