Tennessee nearly doubled up Presbyterian Tuesday night, beating the Hose black and Blue by a score of 86-44. Here are three things.
Lean on me
Tennessee had 26 assists on 33 made field goals on Tuesday which means the Vols were assisted on nearly 80 percent of their buckets. That sort of percentage is a hallmark of cohesive offensive basketball. 26 helpers is Tennessee’s second-highest number so far this season, and it’s no accident that the Vols’ highest assist total this year (28) came against UNC, which is also the team’s best win thus far.
Arizona leads the country by averaging an assist on 74 percent of its made baskets, but the Vols aren’t far behind at eighth with a 64-percent figure. Kennedy Chandler’s 5.2 average leads Tennessee and is definitely a driving force behind that stat for the Vols — he had seven assists against Presbyterian, eight against UNC and just two in the Nova game — but he’s one of four players who’s averaging at least 2.5 in each game. It makes sense that fellow ball handlers Santiago Vescovi (3.2) and Zakai Zeigler (2.7) would be in that group, but, maybe a bit surprisingly, the fourth member is John Fulkerson and his three helper per-game average.
This is totally arbitrary, but I tend to look for the Vols to hit the 20-assist mark in games. Any time they’re at 20 or above, I feel good about getting the win. This is far less arbitrary — UT’s had just one game so far when its failed to notch even double-digit assists, and I bet you know which game it was: Villanova (nine).
Kennedy Chandler is listed at 6-0, 171 pounds on UT Sports dot com, and before he got to Tennessee there were concerns about how his slight build might effect him defensively.
Well, he’s currently sporting Tennessee’s second-highest defensive rating at 87.2, slotted below Josiah-Jordan James. James has had the team’s best DRtg the last two seasons.
Chandler’s metrics got a big bump after his game against Presbyterian during which he recorded seven steals and several more deflections.
He’s now leading the team and tied for 15th in the NCAA with 2.67 steals per game, but it’s important to note that 15 of his 16 total steals have come against teams that aren’t Villanova or North Carolina.
Obviously, there’s plenty more to defense than just racking up steals. Still — the way Chandler was tenaciously pawing at loose dribbles and telegraphing passes was pretty fun to watch.
Let’s see how Chandler’s defense holds up as the Vols are heading into one of the more difficult months of this year’s schedule. They kick things off by traveling to Boulder to play the 6-2 Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday.
It’s fiddna get real
So yeah: Tennessee plays at Colorado on Saturday and then against 6-1 Texas Tech on Dec. 7th to kick off the Jimmy V Classic in New York.
Sure, after the Red Raiders, it looks like the Vols get a brief lull in UNC Greensboro and USC Upstate, but then it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire with games against three-straight (currently) top-25 teams. Tennessee plays both No. 18 Memphis and No. 11 Arizona on the at Thompson-Boling on the 18th and 22nd, respectively, and then kicks off SEC play with a trip to Tuscaloosa to play No. 16 Alabama.
I’m hoping for 5-2 over this seven-game stretch, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 4-3 mark, either. Y’all think I’m selling us short? These seven teams are a combined 38-11 right now, with nearly half of those losses coming from just USC Upstate (five). I tend to err on the cynical side, but I reckon we’ll find out soon enough.