Could the Tennessee basketball season have gotten off to a better start? The Volunteers passed their first true test of the season with flying colors, finding a way to win against a really good Purdue squad.
We saw flashes of really good play from this team last year at this time, but they couldn’t figure out how to close. On Wednesday in the Bahamas, Grant Williams and Tennessee found a way. That’s a big step in the right direction.
That step earned them a huge resume building win for the NCAA Tournament. It also earned them a shot at the No. 5 team in the land, the Villanova Wildcats.
‘Nova pulled away from Western Kentucky in the second half today to move on and face the Vols.
Villanova is 4-0 after their win today. They are a legitimate final four contender once again, returning plenty of talent from last year’s squad. They are led by junior guard Jalen Brunson (17.8 ppg) and junior wing Mikal Bridges (18 ppg).
They don’t offer the pure size that Purdue did, but few teams do. We’ll see if Tennessee can keep feeding Grant Williams down low. That was the bread and butter for Rick Barnes against the Boilermakers, ultimately proving to be the reason why the Vols came out on top.
The Vols will need a little more of an efficient attack against Villanova. Lamonte Turner played some hero-ball in the first half to keep Tennessee breathing. Grant Williams finished the job with some help from Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander.
Jordan Bone (1-10), Jordan Bowden (2-7) and James Daniel (0-2) flat out will have to be better if Tennessee wants to pull off another upset. 20 (!!!) offensive boards kept Tennessee alive in what had to be an absolutely frustrating loss from a Purdue perspective.
We’ll see if the Volunteers can stay that active on the boards against the No. 5 team in the land tomorrow.
Radio: Vol Network
Tip-off: 12:30 (Eastern)