Coming into the season, it’s easy to think that many people had this game as a potential showdown for the SEC regular season crown.
How perfect would that have been? Two teams that shared the title last season, facing off against each other for a solo claim to this year’s title?
But dreams are meant to be broken in this cruel, cold world. At least the Vols still have a shot at the SEC regular season title with a win.
Auburn, on the other hand, is looking for a big win to gain some momentum heading into the postseason. Can they pull it off on Saturday?
Conference Record and Standings
- Southeastern Conference
- 21-9 (10-7)
- 4th SEC
- Won last three
- G Bryce Brown: 15.7 PPG, 42.9 FG%, 81.0 FT%, 40.0 3PT%, 2.0 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.9 TO, 1.0 STL, 31.5 MIN
We are all familiar with Brown, who has been one of the best players in the SEC over the past two seasons. The Vols were able to shutdown Quinndary Weatherspoon on Tuesday night, can they do the same against Brown?
- G Jared Harper: 15.2 PPG, 39.7 FG%, 81.4 FT%, 38.4 3PT%, 2.6 REB, 5.8 AST, 2.3 TO, 1.1 33.6 MIN
Harper is more of the true point guard on the team, but isn’t just about distributing the ball. He’s the second leading scorer on the team and plays the most minutes.
- F Chuma Okeke: 11.5 PPG, 49.4 FG%, 71.0 FT%, 36.4 3PT%, 6.8 REB, 1.2 BLK, 2.0 AST, 1.7 TO, 29.2 MIN
There is no doubt that this guy will be a handful. He can score from both the inside and the outside and he can also control the boards.
Tennessee’s improved defense will certainly face one last test in these three players.
Auburn possibly eliminated the Alabama Crimson Tide from the NCAA Tournament with a 66-60 win on Tuesday.
The Tigers trailed by 11 at halftime and by 13 at one point in the second half. They would end up leading by five at one point, but Alabama tied the game with 1:40 left to play.
The Tide wouldn’t score another point from then on. Thanks to a huge night from Chuma Okeke (17 points, 14 rebounds), Auburn was able to rally and get the win.
Auburn finished 7 of 25 from long distance, but went 17 of 35 from inside the arc. Okeke’s presence proved to be a big issue and he could easily present the same issues against Tennessee.
19 Crimson Tide turnovers were also key in the win. Seven of those were steals and Auburn scored 16 points off the mistakes.
Don’t let Auburn’s record fool you. Outside of blowout losses to the Kentucky Wildcats and Ole Miss Rebels, they lost to the Duke Blue Devils by five points, the LSU Tigers by five points, the Wildcats (round one) by two points.
The Tigers are also 35th in the country when it comes to three-point percentage at 37.5 percent per game. It’s pretty obvious that Tennessee’s achilles heel is the outside shot, so it will be interesting to see how the team defends the perimeter.
But they also have an inside presence in Okeke and Anfernee McLemore that the Vols will have to contend with. Both players combine for 18 points and 11 rebounds per game, but Grant Williams should be enough to combat their efforts.
Oh, Auburn is also 14-2 at home and guess where this game is being played?
If the Tigers get hot from three, then this game could get ugly for the Vols, but Tennessee’s defense has been stout as late.
As Admiral Schofield said after the win against the Mississippi State Bulldogs: “Don’t worry, we got this.”