TV: ESPN2 / WatchESPN
Malicious stats link: Or so your eyes will have you believe.
Last we left the Lady Vols, they were busy looking much like the Lady Vols team we expected to see this season. A 75-64 win over 2-seed Arizona State on their own court coupled the defense that has been mostly solid all season with an offense that actually did offense-y things. Russell dominated the first half against an ASU team that didn't really have an answer for her "A" game. When she rode the pine with foul trouble in the second half, DeShields did DeShields things, netting 18 of her 24 game points with a lot of 1-on-1 magic to keep ASU at bay. Add in a solid Te'a Cooper performance and a Bashaara doing the blue-collar work on the glass, and it actually looked rather good.
On paper, tonight is theoretically an easier matchup: it's not on the opponents' home floor and a 2 seed is (on paper) tougher than a 3 seed. The former matters somewhat; with South Carolina playing the early game in the regional, the Lady Vols will likely enjoy the double benefit of their own fans, plus Carolina fans who would very likely prefer Tennessee to win. (The proof of this statement is an exercise left to the reader.)
The one Danger, Will Robinson! flag here is that Ohio State relies on a hot-shooting guard to hit three pointers on her way to 26 ppg. Given Tennessee's track record against YOLO guard play, holding her to 26 would be a win. A second - and equally as important - factor is that Arizona State decided to play man defense against Tennessee all game, and it's very unlikely that Ohio State will make that mistake. They may prefer to play man and keep the tempo up, but at least mixing in some stretches of zone has proven to be effective at stifling Tennessee's offense.
There's no real sense in wasting more words on "UT just needs to play to their potential", so instead let's take a trip down the memory hole and revisit the last time the Lady Vols played Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen - just five short years ago.
- Back then, Ohio State was an excruciatingly slow team and UT was all offense. How things have changed.
- If you were a part of our readership in 2011, you know where this link goes.
- The most definite article I've ever written.
- Sweet Mother of Breadsticks.
Prediction: 74 - 66 Tennessee. Breaking the 70 point barrier with a fury! Chris is going 65-59 Tennessee because it worked last time out.