While The Volunteers closed out the regular season with two wins in their toughest three game stretch of the season (the last three games against Florida (W), Kentucky (W), and Auburn (L)), the chances for the Volunteers to make the NCAA Tournament are virtually non-existent. So we will be looking at the Volunteer’s matchups on a game-by-game basis during this post season, as the SEC Tournament starts this week and the Vols will likely be invited to the NIT. So let’s take a look at post-season game 1; SEC Tournament Round 2 against Alabama.
(8) Tennessee Volunteers
- Record/SEC Finish and Tournament Seeding: 17-14 (9-9 SEC), 8th
- Points: Jordan Bowden and John Fulkerson tied (13.7 ppg)
- Assists: Santiago Vescovi (3.7 apg)
- Rebounds: John Fulkerson (5.9 rpg)
- Blocks: Yves Pons (2.4 bpg)
- Steals: Santiago Vescovi (1.2 spg)
Team Strengths and Quick Analysis
- Offensive Strength: Sharing the Ball– the Vols rank 74th in the NCAA and 3rd in the SEC with 14.45 team assists per game.
- Defensive Strength: Blocks- U.T. is currently the 7th best shot blocking team in the country and the top school in the conference with 5.6 blocks per game.
- Quick Analysis: Tennessee’s calling card is their defense. They allow only 61 points per game which is good enough for 54th in the NCAA and 2nd in the SEC. John Fulkerson is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 17.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 1.0 bpg since February 1. Jordan Bowden has had a late season surge, as well, and those two playing their best ball of the season has come at the right time. With the leading scorers actually scoring, and a team defense anchored by Yves Pons who has the 9th best defensive box plus/minus in the conference, the Vols may surprise some folks here in the SEC Tourney.
(9) Alabama Crimson Tide
- Record/SEC Finish and Tournament Seeding: 16-15 (8-10 SEC), 9th
- Points: Kira Lewis, Jr. (18.5 ppg)
- Assists: Kira Lewis, Jr. (5.2 apg)
- Rebounds: John Petty (6.6 rpg)
- Blocks: Alex Reese (1.0 bpg)
- Steals: Kira Lewis, Jr. (1.8 spg)
Team Strengths and Quick Analysis
- Offensive Strength: Putting up Points– The Crimson Tide are ranked number 4 in the NCAA and number 1 in the SEC in offensive output; 82.0 ppg.
- Defensive Strength: Crickets– By many metrics, the Crimson Tide are the worst defensive team in the conference (ranked between 10-14th in Steals, Blocks, Total Rebounds and give up the most points in the conference at 80.2 ppg. If there is any strength to their defense, it is their… well there isn’t one. Alabama is horrendous on the defensive side of the ball.
- Quick Analysis: Teams that play at a fast pace are always dangerous come Tournament season. Kira Lewis, Jr. can attack and dish as well as any point guard in the SEC, and on the offensive end he is flanked by Jaden Shackleford (15.0 ppg) and John Petty (14.5 ppg). Alex Reese and Herb Jones make up an undersized, yet formidable front-court, but where they lack in size they make up for in their abilities to run the court and help the Tide get out in transition.
This game is going to come down to who can control the pace. I think both Rick Barnes and Nate Oats are well aware of this. Look for Tennessee to run a lot of half-court offensive sets and for Alabama to try and push the ball every chance they get. If the game score totals under 130 points, that GREATLY favors the Volunteers. Much more than 150 points, and Alabama will be in control.
The good news for us U.T. fans is that we do have some athletic defenders that can guard the break (namely Pons, James, and Gaines). Watch the matchup between John Fulkerson and whichever of the two Crimson Tide bigs (likely Alex Reese). That is one of the individual matchups that will end up being important. Also, while I don’t think Barnes will stick Vescovi on Lewis, Jr. (I pray he doesn’t, at least), look for which point guard has a better overall game. My final call… Vols 65-Bama 60.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. The Vols do have a chance to make some noise in the SEC Tournament; they have already defeated half of the top 6 seeded teams. I have seen crazier things happen in this tournament over the years. While the chances are slim for us to come out as champions, it isn’t going to stop me from cheering as if we are the favorites!
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. Tennessee Baseball is in full swing, Football Spring Practice is underway, and Men’s and Women’s basketball is wrapping up their seasons. Stay tuned! Until next time, this is Dakota Robertson saying goodbye and Go Vols!
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