If you’ve paid any attention at all to Tennessee basketball over the last few seasons, you know Rick Barnes isn’t afraid of an early-season test. Or — several of them, actually.
The first one of those tough non-conference tests is slated for Saturday afternoon as the Vols head north to Toronto to face the Washington Huskies. The 2-0 Huskies are ranked 20th entering this matchup, already with a ranked win on the season over Baylor. Washington came out on top that day 67-64, powered by the efforts of star guard Nahziah Carter.
The 6-6 junior guard has jolted to the top of the scoring column for Washington this season, currently averaging over 18 points per contest. Carter is shooting a deadly 50 percent from long range so far this season and will offer a tough challenge for Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden.
Another area that will challenge Tennessee will be the forward spot. Washington has two 6-9 forwards in Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart. With Tennessee’s lack of size this year, this will be an interesting spot for the John Fulkerson, Yves Pons and Olivier Nkamhoua. Both McDaniels and Stewart are averaging double figure points so far this season. Both guys lead the Huskies in rebounding as well.
Protecting the paint for Washington is another 6-9 forward in Hameir White. The 220 pounder out of New York has six blocks through two games, which could make life difficult inside for Tennessee.
The Vols are still trying to find a presence on the interior, looking to move forward without Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander. Yves Pons has been a revelation through two games, appearing to turn a corner in a new role. He’s playing kind of a hybrid role for Tennessee, bouncing inside and out through two games. Fulkerson and Nkamhoua have flashed through two games, but haven’t shown us anything consistent down low.
Tennessee will continue to play through Lamonte Turner, who racked up 14 assists against Murray State. Jordan Bowden will be tasked with backing up a career night against the Racers, where he put up 26 points on 75 percent shooting from three-point range. There’s no doubt that the Volunteers will need another strong performance from their two senior guards in order to win this one.
Elsewhere, Josiah James has yet to show much through two games. The former five-star guard is still trying to get his legs under him after missing much of camp due to injury. Tennessee has another level of upside if he can get right, but that’s probably going to take a little time to happen.
Tennessee and Washington will tip-off at 4 p.m. ET live on ESPN+, which will require a subscription. You can listen live online through the Vol Network. We’ll have coverage up shortly after the game ends.