A typical Tennessee fan.
Saturday’s noon matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers will likely be subdued from the usual hype which surrounds the biannual matchup. It’s no surprise the Vols are struggling this season in the wake of Bruce Pearl’s tumultuous departure from Knoxville. Cuonzo Martin has taken the helm after a less-than-stellar two-season career at Missouri State, and has led his team to an 8-8 start. The team fell last night at Mississippi State after having a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.
Regardless, Tennessee’s struggles still should not take away from the rivalry factor on the court. Kentucky cannot overlook the Volunteers; last week they pulled off the upset over Florida, and even in a loss, the MSU game likely has built momentum. This could very easily be a trap game for the Cats. And considering the battle it took for Kentucky to win on the road at Auburn, well, I think you get the point. And don’t forget the incentive Tennessee may have as payback for ending the streak. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.
This is no contest on paper, Kentucky has the athletes to beat this Volunteers team going away. The Big Blue just needs to put it all together and look like a cohesive unit; we didn’t see that until that last several minutes in Auburn
To get you ready for the game at Tennessee here’s a quick preview of the two teams.
(stats via statsheet.com)
Tennessee (8-8, 1-1 SEC)
vs. Top-25: 1-2
Best wins: vs. Florida
Bad losses: vs. Austin Peay, at Oakland
Kentucky (16-1, 2-0 SEC)
vs. Top-25: 3-1
Best wins: vs. Kansas, vs. North Carolina
Bad losses: None
Note: It’s tough to decide who Cuonzo Martin is going to start on Saturday. Here’s my best guess.
PG: Marquis Teague vs. Trae Golden
Marquis Teague is slowing molding himself into a real point guard and should be able to hold down the Sophomore Trae Golden, who is more of a shooter than Teague. He had 20 points last night against MSU, and shot 4-6 from behind the arc. You cannot overlook this young Tennessee point guard; he’s shooting better, assisting more, and turning the ball over less than Kentucky’s. This is probably Tennessee’s best player on the floor. The one thing Golden lacks is the play making ability and instinct to drive the lane. While Golden’s numbers may look a little better, Teague has the flashiness — if he can just finish at the rim.
SG: Doron Lamb vs. Cameron Tatum
Cameron Tatum is the last of the headband era in Tennessee, and a grizzled veteran on the Volunteers squad, this his fifth season on the team. If you had to assign this team a “Mr. Do-It-All” like Kentucky’s Kidd-Gilchrist, Tatum would be Tennessee’s. He’s got a big body and has the ability to go anywhere on the court (keyword: ability), but he’s sort of under-performing for his age. In fact, he didn’t score a single point against the Bulldogs last night. Lamb will probably get a lot of touches, but there is a significant size difference here and if guarded on tight man-to-man, he may not get a lot of open looks in the half court set. Lamb will need to create in transition and be waiting in the wing for open three’s.
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Jordan McRae
Oh boy, this one’s not even close. I doubt there is a single defender in the country who can hold down Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and if there were, it’s certainly not going to be Jordan McRae. No offense to you Mr. McRae, but I’d get out of the way. Kidd-Gilchrist will have more points, rebounds, steals, (and maybe turnovers but that’s okay) than McRae and I’d just about take that to the bank.
PF: Terrence Jones vs. Jeronne Maymon
The conundrum that is Terrence Jones is still being worked out by many fans and media members. Which side of Jones will we get — the reemerging star we saw last week against South Carolina or, to some degree, Auburn on Wednesday? Or the sulking injured one? Jones and Maymon matchup statistically fairly evenly, both are averaging 11 points per game and shooting a low free throw percentage. The edge off the glass goes to Maymon, but consider Jones missed a pair of games earlier, and Anthony Davis is kind of a rebound vacuum. This will be a great test for Terrence Jones, a physical SEC body to challenge him to play up the to hype. I hope Jones is prepared to get pushed around. Watch this one-on-one closely, Big Blue Nation. We should learn a lot about which Terrence Jones we’ll see going forward.
C: Anthony Davis vs. Kenny Hall
Kenny Hall doesn’t shoot much and barely manages seven points and five rebounds per game, and has 18 blocks on the season. #AnthonyDavisSaysShutUp. The one thing the Volunteers have to do to beat Kentucky is work the ball through Hall, as they did against Florida last week and what Auburn did through Ron Chubb in the middle. That’s obviously no easy task and starts with guard play – which Tennessee doesn’t have a lot of. Hall may be one of the weaker big men in the SEC in terms of both size and production. Maybe we see Davis finally gets the elusive triple-double on Saturday. The Brow comes to play.
Mustache: Adam Morrison vs. Skylar McBee
I don’t even