Eye bleach: SECN+ / online here
Ear bleach: Callin' out refs by name
Mind bleach: You know where to find it now.
Perhaps it's easiest to just explain up-front how this game is going to go: Ole Miss will play surprisingly well to start and perhaps even stake out a lead. But they'll foul like bandits throughout the first half, get in deep trouble on account of it, and collapse in the second. If that sounds a bit presumptuous, it's only because it's the exact pattern they've always followed in every game I've noted them in this year. (Not hyperbole: every time I saw them on the scoreboard, they'd lead in the first against good teams and fall apart late.)
It makes more sense when you remember that their head coach is Matt Insell, who used to be an assistant under Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky. He likes the "all press no halfcourt" game and seems to be instituting much the same in Oxford, but Ole Miss does not yet have Kentucky's talent level or skillset, so the results naturally follow. They're getting about 76-77 possessions per game, which is decidedly faster than Tennessee, but their PPWS shot is only about 0.91. Fast, but not efficient. They also lose about 23 turnovers/game while taking about 28, so ball control will matter to some degree. Finally, they're currently 4-6 in conference play and riding a 5-game losing streak. Their losses were to Kentucky, TAMU, MSU, LSU, Carolina, and Vandy, while their wins were against Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, which suggests that Ole Miss is just about dead center of the SEC pack this year. (Figuring out Georgia's place in the hierarchy is an exercise left to the reader.)
At this point, anybody reading this article likely follows the Lady Vols well enough to know how this thing will roll, but here are some notes:
- Ole Miss is two-deep inside. Tia Faleru (15 PPG) and Danielle McCray (7 PPG) are each 6'-1" senior forwards, but the only other forwards are three freshmen (two at 6'-3" and one at 6'-1") who get 12 minutes/game or less. It's possible to get Faleru and McCray in foul trouble (especially McCray, who averages about 4 fouls/game), and the interior depth goes to nil behind that.
- Faleru is the only efficient player with an efficiency of 0.319. McCray is next at 0.169, which would place her 9th on the Lady Vols roster. (Though to be fair, Faleru would be second on UT's roster to ... Kortney Dunbar, so take this with some salt.)
- Defense on the perimeter. It's understandable given the roster, but Ole Miss defends the perimeter better than the interior. That is great news for Harrison, Graves, and Burdick (and even Nared, who is starting to show up down low).
- Offense on the fast break. They don't shoot three-pointers well (24%) but are in the low 40s on two point shots largely due to transition baskets. Their free throws are only at 61%, so fouling them isn't a big deal if it makes strategic sense.
- You know what, just pretend it's Kentucky. It's really the same offense and defense, but with less depth and individual talent.
The singular fear here is that it's a road game, and Tennessee has been less than impressive away from home (with the exceptions of the Notre Dame loss and the Kentucky win). But so long as Tennessee can cobble together some decent-ish basketball with ball control, they'll be fine.
Prediction: 76 - 60 Tennessee. A better game from Tennessee than against Florida, and foul trouble causing a late collapse, and it'll be a double digit win after a frustrating first half. Chris takes the wiser tack on a road game and hedges the points for a 68-54 win.
More Time for Moore: somewhere around the first media timeout. Chris will eventually figure out that Holly subs her in for Harrison quickly, even when Izzy isn't in foul trouble. Until then, I'll quietly keep getting this prediction right.
The Whistling Herd: we were graced by Kantner's presence in the Florida game (though Mickey keyed in on Wesley Dean), so this has the feel of a Mattingly. Enterline's a good dark horse here, though, if you want to run longer odds.