TV: Movin' on up from SECN to ESPNU / Still in the same spot online
If you parachuted in to the Tennessee Lady Vols season season yesterday, it would've looked a lot like most other Tennessee seasons of recent memory. Tennessee stifled Texas A&M's best player, racked up fouls on the Aggies' interior players, and rode free throws and a strong shooting performance inside the arc to a tough but good win over a top-15 outfit.
That win, according to ESPN's Charlie Creme, moved Tennessee up to a 7 seed.
At this point, barring a 30-point loss or something else abysmal, Tennessee should safely be on the other side of the bracket from the top-of-the-top teams, making today (and tomorrow, should tomorrow happen) be great opportunities to get some great wins and boost that seeding a little bit.
Mississippi State plays a fairly similar game to Texas A&M, relying heavily on defense and uglying it up to come down with wins. (There's a reason Texas A&M was ranked 15th and MSU is ranked 16th.) This is a winnable game in the 2015-16 Tennessee sense, which is to say they can win it but could also completely blow it. That's #analysis of the highest order, but if you've been following this team, that sentence makes total sense.
The rotation yesterday seemed to work well, with Diamond DeShields and Bashaara Graves doing most of the damage and everyone sweeping up behind and around them. This, at least on offense, is the solution the team should ride with; Graves can draw fouls and is hyper-efficient on offense, and the high-low game with DeShields was on point yesterday. (There were even a couple of pick-and-rolls with Mercedes Russell that need to stay in the playbook, although Russell needs to get better with authoritative picks.)
We'll see if Jordan Reynolds, who sat out the second half yesterday, can go today. Nia Moore and Kortney Dunbar didn't get runouts yesterday, and that'll probably be the case again today. Alexa Middleton should play (although not against first-team guards, as Texas A&M did some heavy switch work to get Middleton isolated against the Courtneys Walker and Williams and I see no reason to not do something similar if you're MSU.) Te'a Cooper, recently named to the SEC All-Freshman team, will show flashes of brilliance and drive me up a wall. Hopefully it's just me.
Win, and somehow this season from hell will end up with a chance to play for some hardware. Lose, and if you saw the rest of this season is it really that surprising?
PREDICTION: Tennessee, 65-59 since that worked yesterday.
BONUS PREDICTION: South Carolina, 68-54, because Andy Landers picked a Kentucky upset and if I've learned anything from the Holly Warlick era, it's that Andy Landers is on the losing side.