Tennessee dropped what was one of those “can’t lose” games to South Carolina this weekend 63-61. After a phantom charging call, an inability to make anything happen offensively during crunch time and close the game out, as well as some poor free throw shooting, the Vols have now played themselves, in my opinion, FIRMLY out of the NCAA Tournament. However, if they can SOMEHOW beat Auburn once and their rematch with Kentucky as well as not get any byes in the SEC tournament (potentially allowing themselves to record two extra wins)… they have an outside shot. That is the only scenario I can imagine where the NCAA Tournament is a possibility.
The South Carolina loss was one of the two most disappointing losses of the season to me. The only other game I can make a case for as being more disappointing was the loss to Texas A&M. But in sports, the only thing you can do is look at the next game. That next game, for the Vols, is against in-state rival/little brother Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Let’s look at Vandy’s current season, their statistical leaders, and give a quick-hitter commentary on what’s gone on between our last showdown with the Commodores and now. Then we will look at how we should matchup this time and how I see this game ending up. Ready? Let’s go!
Vanderbilt Season Recap
- Record: 9-16 (1-11 SEC)
- SEC Standing: 14th (last…. Dead last)
- Categorical Leaders (not including injured players):
- Points: Saben Lee (17.2 ppg)
- Assists: Saben Lee (4.4 apg)
- Rebounds: Dylan Disu (5.8 rpg)
- Steals: Saben Lee (1.6 spg)
- Blocks: Dylan Disu (1.0 bpg)
- Current NCAA Tournament Projection (Lunardi): Out
Quick Commentary: Since the 21-point drilling the Vols handed the Commodores earlier this season in Memorial Gymnasium, things haven’t gotten much better for them. They are still without Aaron Nesmith, are 1-7 since, and are only shooting an OVERALL 39.3% from the floor, while allowing opponents to shoot 48.3%. For comparison, in that same span, Tennessee is shooting close to 44% and holding opponents to 41%. Vandy did somehow take down the current SEC #2 LSU, but aside from that, business is going as usual in Nashville, and their business is losing.
In the preview for the Vols’ first game against the Commodores, I stressed that two things were going to be crucial to accomplish if we were going to win; holding Saben Lee and Scottie Pippen, Jr. to under their season averages combined (28 then, 28 now) as well as winning the down-low game (more points, more rebounds, more blocks). That is still the case in this game.
A problem we are going to face is that Saben Lee has really stepped up his game in the past few weeks, especially from three-point range. Tennessee has continued to be consistently above average on the defensive end, so I think we will be able to minimize his impact. The Vols slowed Lee down significantly in the first game until we had pretty much emptied our bench and really dialed back the intensity. Saben ended up shooting only 4 of 12 from the field. Compound our pretty good defense with the return of Josiah-Jordan James, and I look for Lee to be held in check.
Finally, Tennessee is going to have to put something together on the Offensive end. While for much of the South Carolina game I wasn’t necessarily displeased with our offense, the last frame of the second half was abysmal and enough to ruin the entire game. I think the solution may be running the offense through John Fulkerson. Though he is scoring at a high clip and playing his best basketball since he has been at Tennessee, the offense is not truly played through him, but instead through any of the three perimeter players. I will be interested to see the gameplan that Coach Rick Barnes rolls out.
Tennessee is such a wish-washy team, that these predictions have become pretty tough! I do think this game will be like the contest in Nashville. The biggest factor for me is that Vanderbilt has very little depth. I just think the Vols will be able to out-horse the Commodores. Come to think of it, that is typically the case!
Again, I look for Fulky to have a big game. I also think Santiago Vescovi will continue his hot play and make a big impact on this contest. Also, it would be nice to see Bowden have a big game in his finale against Vandy! Hopefully, all this comes to fruition and the Vols come out on top. My call for this one is Vols 75 Commodores 63.
Thank you for takin the time to read this article. Tennessee is in a tough spot this season, but I will take a victory over Vanderbilt any day of the week, and I am hoping we get that on Tuesday. With some strong inside work and a semblance of an offensive game, I think we have a good shot. Let’s hope that the Vols get a rivalry win in front of the home crowd at TBA!
For minute to minute news concerning all aspects of all Volunteer sports, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues on Twitter (@More_Issues), as well as listening to the podcast on any of the various podcast platforms! Trust me, Landon and Caleb won’t let you down If you’re looking for quality Big Orange talk with a laid-back attitude. Baseball opened with a monster weekend in an opening series against Western Illinois, and it looks like it is going to be an exciting season on Rocky Top! Until we meet again, this is Dakota Robertson saying see ya later and Go Vols!
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