The Tennessee Volunteers head back home this week for the first game of a four-game home stretch at Thompson Boling-Arena. After a tense game in Memphis, it will be nice to play in front of a loving home crowd.
Tennessee’s first opponent comes in the form of the Samford Bulldogs. Despite their FBS standing, they’ve already pushed the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Belmont Bruins to the brink this season. They lost both games by a combined eight points.
The 10-2 record is very impressive for a team that lost all five starters and finished 10-22 last season. Samford is also on a three-game winning streak. If Tennessee isn’t careful, they could find themselves in a dog fight.
Conference Record and Standings
- Southern Conference (FBS)
- 10-2 (0-0) 5th place
- Won last three games
- G Josh Sharkey: 15.5 PPG, 44.8 FG%, 75.3 FT%, 41.9% 3PT, 3.3 REB, 5.9 AST, 4.3 TO, 2.6 STL, 33.5 MIN
Sharkey leads the team in both points per game and minutes per game. He’s a quick, creative player that can find scoring opportunities in small spaces. That will come in handy against a larger, more physical Tennessee team.
But Sharkey also has issues turning the ball over, evidenced by his 6:4 turnover to assist ratio. He leads the team in turnovers as well.
If Tennessee can build a lead and turn the heat up on Sharkey, then they should be able to force him into mistakes that will eventually doom the Bulldogs.
- C Ruben Guerrero: 14.4 PPG, 64.7 FG%, 8.3 REB, 60.5 FT%, 2.1 BLK, 30.4 MIN
This will be a fun matchup to watch. Guerrero is listed as 7-foot tall, so it will be fun to watch him and Tennessee’s bigs go at it.
Guerrero is second on the team in scoring and is a true post presence, but he is also second on the team in turnovers. There’s no reason to think that Tennessee will be able to contain him and force him into mistakes, a la Sharkey.
He also hasn’t attempted a single three-point shot all season long. There is no outside threat, so the Vols should be able to shut him down.
- G Myron Gordon: 11.4 PPG, 46.8 FG%, 89.1 FT%, 28.6% 3PT, 2.6 REB, 1.4 AST, 2.1 TO, 26.6 MIN
Gordon is solid, but just like his aforementioned teammates, he has trouble with turnovers. He also can’t hit the outside shots.
The key here is to keep him off the line. You don’t want a 90% shooter to find a rhythm and we all saw how key free points can be last week.
Outside shooting keyed the Bulldogs’ 81-65 win over the Houston Baptist Huskies. Samford went 12/24 from three and Sharkey led the team with 24 points.
The Bulldogs shot just 61% from the line and were out-rebounded (46) to (41), which included an offensive rebound mark of (20) to (11).
Even with the possibility of an emotional let down after the combination of the Gonzaga/Memphis game, this should be one the Vols take with ease.
Tennessee is a terrible matchup for Samford. Physical defense, quick guards, and the threat of hitting a shot from anywhere on the court will be enough to throw off the Bulldogs and give UT their ninth win of the season.
Tip-off time: Dec 19th, 7 PM Eastern
TV Channel: None
Streaming link: Watch ESPN (SECN+)
Radio: Vol Network
Odds: Tennessee -22.5