On Saturday, Tennessee fell to Mississippi State 86-73 in Starkville. It was painfully obvious how out-talented the Vols were, but to add insult to injury, Tennessee’s players appeared to decide that defense was optional in the second half. On Tuesday, the Vols will head to Tuscaloosa to face off against the Crimson Tide. Let’s take a look at Alabama’s program and current season, as well as discuss a couple of players to watch and how the Vols may fare.
Still Have Never Really Understood the Elephant
- School: University of Alabama
- Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
- Mascot: Crimson Tide
- Conference: SEC
- Coach: Nate Oats (1st season)
- 2019-2020 Record: 12-9 (4-4 SEC)
- Current NCAA Tournament Forecast (Lunardi): First Four Out (#2 out)
- Last Game vs. Tennessee: 1/19/2019: Vols outlast Alabama 71-68 in Knoxville behind 21 points from Grant Williams.
- Notable Former Player: Robert Horry- The 7x NBA Champion played for the Crimson Tide between 1988 and 1992. During his time in Tuscaloosa, Horry lead Alabama to 3 SEC Titles and 2 Sweet-Sixteens. Over his 134 game college career, Horry averaged 11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, and is 6th all-time in the SEC for career blocked shots at 286.
Alabama on the Court
The Crimson Tide are one of those teams that has a lot of talent but sometimes seems to not know what to do with it. On the current roster, 6 players on Alabama’s team finished inside the top 100 players of their respective class as high school seniors. While the team and program are in flux and have a new coach in Nate Oats, a couple of good players with familiar faces stuck around for this new regime’s first season.
First is John Petty, Jr. Petty is the epitome of an “off-guard”. He moves without the ball on offense and always finds his way into open shot opportunities. He is very athletic, and can beat defenders off of the dribble if they commit to him shooting too soon, but is much better as a spot up shooter compared to an attack-the-basket guard. On the season, Petty is a stellar 45.8% 3 point shooter, and truly can kill any team from deep.
Petty’s backcourt companion is Kira Lewis, Jr., a name some Tennessee fans may remember from the 2018-2019 off-season. During that time, Lewis was rumored to be considering Tennessee after he placed his name in the transfer portal, but ultimately decided to return to Tuscaloosa. Lewis has started every game for Alabama since arriving on campus at 17 years old, and for good reason. While he isn’t the most ball-security concerned point guard (1.18:1 Assist/TO), he is able to attack the basket and kick if the defense collapses on him. He isn’t too hot of a shot from outside of 16-17 feet, but his knack for getting to the basket makes him a threat against any team. We all know how the Vols like to over-collapse, and that could allow for Lewis to kick to Petty and it be a long night in Alabama for the Vols.
Lewis and Petty (sounds like a wonderful law firm) combine to average 31.5 points per game from the backcourt. They are extremely capable, and Tennessee will have to focus on stopping the duo to have a shot at winning this matchup. Freshman Jaden Shackleford (13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists) is also a good player to keep your eye on; he is likely going to be an All-SEC Freshman selection.
SIDE NOTE: John Petty really looks like Eddy Grant, singer of one of the greatest songs of all time- “Electric Avenue”. Okay, maybe it’s just that bomb hair.
How The Vols Match Up
Tennessee is definitely going to have their hands full with Lewis and Petty, but should have the advantage on the inside. With a solid showing last game by Uros Plavsic, I would expect to see him a little more in this game. To be honest, I expect there to be a pretty steady rotation of him, Pons, Fulkerson, and Nkamhoua. Usually, Alabama starts a lineup whose tallest player is 6’7″, and Tennessee has shown to play much better against teams with smaller lineups.
Where I think this game will be interesting is who is going to guard the two Alabama guards, Kira Lewis and John Petty. Assuming Tennessee starts Santiago Vescovi, Jordan Bowden, and Josiah-Jordan James, there is a big gap between the speed of Tennessee’s backcourt and that of Alabama’s. Vescovi will not be able to keep up with either of the two previsouly mentioned, and his size wouldn’t allow him to move down to the three on defense against Shackleford. We can’t really afford to lose his offense though. This is why Rick Barnes was paid so much money this off-season; to decide the game plan in games people like me could not.
I am a big believer in the importance of a team’s post presence. This is a tough game to pick because each team has the ability to exploit the other’s weaknesses. Jordan Bowden may not be much of an offensive threat these days, but he still plays great defense, especially in an off-ball scenario. I think he will be matched up with John Petty (but it may be JJJ’s job), and may be able to keep him from torching us. I’m confident in this pick whatsoever, but I say Vols 64 Alabama 60. Hopefully, strong performances out of Fulkerson (who played badly against Mississippi State) and Pons propel us here.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Tennessee and Alabama are going to make for a fun match-up because of their differences. Whatever the sport, I can guarantee you one thing; I hate Alabama. Though Tennessee doesn’t have the best outlook for this last stretch of the season, I would be without complaint with a win in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday.
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. Until we meet again, this is Dakota Robertson saying see ya later and Go Vols!
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