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Tennessee — Mississippi State Preview

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Mississippi State will try to spoil senior night.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Tennessee vs Mississippi State Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s tough final stretch continues with a matchup against a really good Mississippi State squad. The Bulldogs currently sit fourth in the SEC standings, winners of five of their last six.

One final ride at Thompson-Boling Arena for Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander

It’s tough to believe that this time is actually here, but tonight will be the final home game for Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander. These two have been through so much at Tennessee as Rick Barnes has built the core of this team into a national title contender.

“I’ve watched Kyle really grow — Coach Lanier used to put out a video of him where he was like a newborn giraffe, hardly standing up, wobbling all over the place, where he’s gotten so much better,” Barnes said. “Admiral, he started overweight but a worker and wanted to go at it with everything he had.”

Barnes also spoke highly of Lucas Campbell and Brad Woodson. “They’re probably respected as much as anybody on the team because they’re just who they are. They’re real. They’re authentic, and they have poured everything they had into this program.”

Quinndary Weatherspoon will provide a huge challenge

Mississippi State has some guards that can really play, as Tennessee found out last year in the SEC Tournament. Quinndary Weatherspoon is the clear leader of the group, pouring in nearly 19 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from three-point range.

Weatherspoon is playing 34 minutes per game and shooting over 50 percent from the field. We’ve seen the Vols struggle defensively with guards over the last couple of weeks. Terence Davis and Breein Tyree really gave Tennessee issues in Oxford, while LSU’s Javonte Smart got whatever he wanted in Baton Rouge.

“They have guards that can get to the rim. Guards that can make some very difficult layups,” Barnes said of Mississippi State. “Quinndary Weatherspoon might be the best layup maker in the country. He gets them with both hands. He makes some terrific shots around the rim.”

Don’t forget about Lamar Peters

Weatherspoon may be the clear first option, but Peters can do just as much damage. The six foot guard is averaging 11 points per game while also racking up five assists per contest. He isn’t shooting nearly the percentage from the field that Weatherspoon is, but he’s still hitting long range shots at nearly a 38 percent clip.

What makes him dangerous is his ability to create for others, according to Barnes. “Peters is a guy that is looking to be more of a point guard more so than shooting it and trying to create for himself. He can still do that, but he also can get in the lane and make some terrific passes out.”

Jordan Bone, Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden will have to be locked in and ready to play defensively tonight.

Legitimate ‘bigs’ will test Tennessee

Paired with a couple of outstanding guards to two legitimate 6-10 big men — Reggie Perry at 245 pounds and Aric Holman at 225 pounds. Each player is averaging nine points and six assists on the year to this point.

As of late though, Perry has been the dominant player. Perry put up 10 points against Auburn on Saturday, but added 14 rebounds. He has been in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games, really becoming an important piece of the offensive puzzle. Holman has been more sporadic, but he’s added multiple 20+ point performances this year. Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander and John Fulkerson will be challenged tonight on both ends of the floor.

The game can been seen on SEC Network tonight at 9 p.m. eastern. The Vols are currently eight point favorites.