Tennessee basketball has turned into a legitimate juggernaut this season, sitting at 15-1 overall and simply breezing through conference play to this point. Rick Barnes has five players capable of getting 20 points every single night, making his team an absolute nightmare to guard. That depth has really emerged since SEC play began, giving us a glimpse of how high their ceiling really is.
The Vols are playing so well that Rick Barnes is legitimately mad about a 19 point victory. Tennessee is fighting to stay sharp right now through a series of blowout wins. Barnes just wants his team ready for the next challenge. So far, so good.
Next up is Alabama, a team with plenty of talent that could probably give anyone in the country problems. Head coach Avery Johnson has done a really good job of infusing talent into that program over the last couple of seasons.
Alabama took a big step forward last season, powered by the stellar play of Collin Sexton, who has since moved on to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Johnson has replaced that production with freshman Kira Lewis Jr., who currently leads the Tide in scoring at over 14 points per game. The 6-3 guard will be the main focus of the Tennessee defense on Saturday.
Thinking back to last year’s game, it’s hard not to think about Donta Hall, who absolutely abused Tennessee on the boards and at the rim in Tuscaloosa. It was just one of those games for the Vols last year and Hall capitalized with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He’s just as dangerous this year, proving to be a double-double machine as of late. Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander and John Fulkerson will have to come in ready for a fight down low.
Guards like John Petty and Tevin Mack offer size and scoring ability, making Alabama a dangerous opponent for anyone. The problem for the Tide has been consistency, as evidenced by losses to Northeastern and Georgia State earlier in the season. On the other side of that equation are wins against Kentucky and Arizona. The Tide sit at 2-2 in SEC play, beating Missouri this week after dropping two straight to LSU and Texas A&M.
Alabama ranks 59th in the country in efficiency, according to KenPom. They have the 52nd ranked offense and the 81st ranked defense. Tennessee checks in at 5th overall in those same rankings, boasting the 2nd ranked offense and 25th ranked defense.
Tennessee has yet to see a close game at home this year. While Alabama has the talent to challenge the Vols, it’s tough to see that happening considering the run the Vols are on right now.
The Vols and Tide will square off at 2 p.m. eastern on ESPN2.