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NCAA 2nd Round: #2 Lady Vols vs. #10 Pitt

Tennessee defends their 55-0 NCAA record in Knoxville and seeks to be the second SEC team in the Sweet Sixteen.

At least she didn't let her offense affect her defense.
At least she didn't let her offense affect her defense.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Time: 6:30 PM Eastern

TV/Feed: Full Court for TV, ESPN3 for stream

Radio: Dude789's liver knows it shouldn't click this link, but can't help it.

Stats: Well, the NCAA one isn't much better than this one.

Last we left the Lady Vols, they were busy making people nervous by matching up ice-cold Burdick and Nared games against a hot-shooting 15-seed Boise State.  Despite the score coming within 5 points late, UT stretched out a 72-61 win that fit the "survive/advance" mantra as much as anything else.  Of note: Brooke Pahukoa of Boise State went 7-7 from the field in the first half and ended on 22 points.  Meanwhile, Bashaara Graves went BeastMode in the paint and led all scorers with 24.  Burdick goose-egged the scoring columns but led with 11 rebounds, and Nared ... well, Nared got her first taste of NCAA tournament action.  She'll bounce back.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, pulled the modest 10/7 upset over Chattanooga (who really should have been a 5 seed, making this a more legitimate upset than most 10/7 matchups).  The Panthers won mostly by being faster than Chattanooga in transition and getting a lot of easy points, while Chattanooga had this disturbing habit of not shooting with more than 5 seconds left on the shot clock.  (Pace: excruciating.)  The upset denies Tennessee a chance at revenge, but the opportunity for a Sweet Sixteen is still well in front of the Lady Vols.

Pittsburgh, briefly

  • 5-deep, plus a couple players to give rests. Against Chattanooga, 4 starters played 35+ minutes.  The fifth had 28 minutes and 3 fouls (which might partly explain the reduced minutes), and three other players had the remainder.  If Chatt demanded such a short bench, you can bet the same will happen today.
  • Three of those starters are freshmen. Namely Aysia Bugg, Yacine Diop, and Stasha Carey.  The others are seniors Brianna Kiesel and Monica Wignot.  It's a 2 guard/wing/2 post lineup that will give an inch or two to Tennessee, but isn't totally devoid of height or length.  Diop in particular seems to be the athletic spark on the team.
  • It's an international team. Diop is from Senegal, Fred Potvin (yes, Fred) is from Canada, 6'-11" Bubbles Anderson is from Jamaica but isn't playing, and Brianna Kiesel is from Utica, NY.
  • Yes, a 6'-11" girl named Bubbles, which is fantastic. She redshirted due to an off-season knee injury, but she'll be on the sideline with her team.
  • Good passing, average rebounding, decent ball control, modest pace. Stat-wise, they become a very unremarkable team, but they likely won't cough the ball up too much against Tennessee. 

Keys to winning, based mostly on the Pitt-UTC game:

  • Push tempo. Chatt ball-screened the game to death because that's what Chatt does, but Pittsburgh defended it well and often forced UTC into last-second shots.  Tennessee is faster than Chatt; they don't have to play Kentucky-like fast, but just push the pace a bit and put pressure on Pittsburgh to keep up on defense.
  • Don't let Burdick and Nared become head cases. This is more of a UT/Boise thing, but getting these two some easy points and into rhythm will be a huge help.
  • Rotation. Pitt is decent in the post, but won't be able to keep up with a rotation of Graves/Moore/Burdick/Nared if they're on.  Don't let Graves get in foul trouble.
  • Get back on defense. Chatt often didn't, and Pittsburgh made them pay.  No reason to give up the easy looks.

PREDICTION: 73 - 56 Tennessee. Not quite as worrisome as the jittery Boise game, but not quite a blowout either.  Chris will go 76-64, which means we're again basically on the same page.

REFCON: 3. With fewer games, the odds of Mattingly increase, but Pittsburgh is in worse shape to handle a refshow than Tennessee, thanks to their lack of a bench.