UK vs. Tennessee – Preview
Posted by ibleedblue040 on January 20, 2008
They average 86.3 ppg, win by average of 18.1 ppg, they make 9.6 three point shots per game, lead the nation in assists per game at 20.4, and they are second in the nation with a jaw-dropping 11.4 steals per game. We are not facing the Florida Gators anymore, the task that lays ahead against the Tennessee Volunteers will surely be a tough one. All of the stats above, plus turnovers forced per game and points off turnovers, Tennessee is in the top 20 in the nation. They will bring many looks against us and we better have a good week of practice to prepare for perhaps the best Tennessee basketball team in the last 20 years. Tennessee will most likely move into the top 5 nationally tomorrow when the next rankings come out with the losses of two top 5 powerhouses, but every team in the Southeastern Conference knows, whether they are ranked in the top 5 or not, that Tennessee does not mess around and they WILL blow you out if you do not come prepared.
KEYS TO VICTORY
The first key will be what I refered to above, Kentucky MUST start out strong and start out fast against the Volunteers because there is no doubt that they will. Tennessee has held a 10 point lead in the first half in each of the last 3 games and has been leading by atleast 10 in some part of the game for 11 straight games. Kentucky has made it a habit to get behind early and keep having to fight back to even be in the game, the only exception is the Vanderbilt game in which Vandy played the UK role and had to fight back just to send the game in to overtime. Tennesse is the most balanced team in the league with 9 players averaging at least 5 ppg., 4 of those players play the majority of their minutes in the post. Tennessee also leads the SEC with 7 players who have led the team in scoring for a game, Kentucky has had only 5 lead the team in scoring.
The second key will be containing their perimeter shooting. Tennessee leads the league with 9.6 made three pointers per game and they do not shy away from attempting them. Everyone knows Chris Lofton will take them, he was on the pre-season All-American team because he can shoot the long ball, even though he is in a 3 game slump it only takes one shot to break the drought. Ramar and JaJuan Smith also can shoot the three, in the game against the ‘Cats last year that Chris Lofton missed Ramar Smith filled in to score over 20 points. The guards push the ball fast and make very smart decisions in the open floor. By no means am I saying their guards are just spot up shooters, the two Smith guards can both drive the lane as well as any two guards in the SEC aside from maybe Joe Crawford.
The third and most important key will be not turning the ball over. Kentucky leads the league in turnovers with just over 17 per game and they are second in team history in giving the rock up. Tennessee has 9 players that average at least one steal per game and another that averages 0.9, if we are lazy with the ball Tennessee will take it from us and score. Because Tennessee has so many great defensive guards Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford will not be able to carry the team again when every one else is struggling. With the return of Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks yesterday UK will have a couple more options to carry the load. Patrick Patterson must bust out of his funk that he has been in lately. He had 15 points in the Florida game but that came in over 40 minutes, he should be getting 20 or more against weak frontlines like the Gators had and especially if he is getting that many minutes. Derrick Jasper is a very reliable ball handler but since he has been out so long he is still lacking the stamina to play the full game, Meeks can play as many minutes as needed but he is a bad decision maker in the open floor and is not a great ballhandler. Perry Stevenson needs to be more aggressive tomorrow against UT because those guards I have talked about will collapse down if he does not make an immediate post move, he must be strong with the ball and not let a weak guard like Chris Lofton just take the ball from him.
My predicition is a very ugly one, Tennessee might be the best one loss team other than North Carolina and they do not like to keep games close, Gillispie likes to keep guys in when they make bad plays to make it a learning experience so I think our guys might lose hope once we get down by 15 or so. I like our heart last game so I may be wrong but I feel like Tennessee is a completely different animal than Florida is. I think Tennessee comes into Rupp and wins 88-63 behind Ramar Smith and Chris Lofton, I think we will turn the ball over and Tennessee, like always, will take advantage.
Jan. 22 vs. Tennessee
9:00 pm EST on ESPN