It’s been rough for the Tennessee Volunteers (12-9, 4-4) lately.
But not much has gone right for the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-9, 4-4) over the last couple of games, either.
After four straight conference wins, back-to-back losses have dropped the Tide from the near-top of the SEC to the middle of the pack. Fortunately for them, they get to host a struggling Tennessee team that should help boost morale by the end of Tuesday’s matchup.
Or will it be another disappointing loss for Alabama? This Tennessee team will always fight under Rick Barnes, regardless of the opponent, so the Tide shouldn’t make any assumptions before the game clock hits zero on Tuesday night.
Conference Record and Standings
- Southeastern Conference
- 12-9, 4-4 (t-7th)
- Lost last two
G Kira Lewis Jr: 16.4 PPG, 43.9 FG%, 83.3 FT%, 29.8 3PT%, 5.3 REB, 4.7 AST, 2.0 TO, 1.8 STL, 37.3 MIN
The Vols took on a top-five scorer in Reggie Perry, so naturally, they will take on another in Lewis Jr when these two teams meet.
This kid is the team’s best offensive weapon and he also operates as the true point guard, evidenced by his team-leading 4.7 assists per game. That number is also good for third-best in the conference.
His talents were on full display against Kansas State, where he scored the most points (26) since a season-high 30 in the season opener against Penn. He also had a season-high three blocks and tied a season-best eight assists.
How the Vols choose to defend his speed and keep him out of the paint will be interesting to watch.
G John Petty Jr: 15.4 PPG, 46.8 FG%, 70.0 FT%, 45.8 3PT%, 7.2 REB, 2.1 AST, 2.8 TO, 1.3 STL, 30.4 MIN
If you’ve watched Tennessee basketball over the last few years, then you know who Petty Jr. is.
He was instrumental in the 78-50 beatdown that the Vols suffered back in 2017 and he was even more of a pain-in-the-ass last year in Tennessee’s 71-68 win. Petty Jr averages 22 points per game on 15-of-25 shooting, including 9-of-14 from downtown in two games against the Vols. His 30-point game in 2018 tied a career best until this year.
It’s been fun watching the kid develop into a full-time starter. He’s used this opportunity to become a top-10 scorer in the conference, which should bode well for the Tide as they fight for a postseason bid.
F Aaron Reese: 9.9 PPG, 44.1 FG%, 70.0 FT%, 34.5 3PT%, 4.7 REB, 1.1 BLK, 1.1 AST, 1.1 TO, 22.4 MIN
Alabama’s offense is dominated by its three guards. While you can certainly make the case that Jaden Shackleford should be on this list, Reese may be a more important figure in terms of game strategy on Tuesday evening. For better or worse.
The junior forward averages as many points as starting forward Herbert Jones (9.9), despite playing five fewer minutes per game. As it turns out, Jones won’t play in Tuesday’s game due to injury, so it looks like Reese will get more playing time.
How will he handle his opportunity? Will he take advantage of the extra spotlight or will he get exposed? The Vols were just dismantled by an athletic forward in Reggie Perry, so I’m sure they will be on guard to prevent that from happening again.
But what happens will ultimately be decided on the court.
The Tide lost a tough one to Arkansas, 82-78, in a game where Mason Jones and Jimmy Whitt Jr combined for 56 points in Tuscaloosa.
The loss ended Alabama’s eight-game win streak at home, which should give the Vols some comfort in knowing that their upcoming opponent can be beaten in their own house.
But it wasn’t easy for Arkansas. The Tide led, 69-66, with just over 4:00 to play, but Arkansas would score 13 points in the final minutes to notch the comeback win.
Alabama has a whole lot of offense and the Vols are coming off of one of their worst defensive games in over a decade.
Small correction: Mississippi State's 1.365 PPP today is Tennessee's worst defensive outing since January 10, 2004 in a 95-57 loss to Florida. pic.twitter.com/KS0wpP6YwD— Will Warren (@statsbywill) February 1, 2020
Tennessee is also heading back to Tuscaloosa, where it took the aforementioned 78-50 beating two years ago. This year’s team is also nowhere near the adversary it was in 2017.
This is not good.
Look, we know this team will play tough for as long as possible under Barnes. We saw it just the other day against the Bulldogs. But they just don’t have enough to keep a team like Alabama at bay for too long. Nor do they have enough on offense to keep up with the top-scoring team in the SEC.
The Vols bite the dust in another one that pushes their losing streak to four games.