Preview: Tennessee vs. Kansas State

    by -

    Josh Richardson-1-6

    Tennessee (2-3) vs. Kansas State (4-3)

    Saturday, Dec. 6, 3:17 p.m. ET

    Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, Tenn.

    TV: ESPN2

    Probable Kansas State Starters

    G-Jevon Thomas, 6-0, 185, SO (6.7 ppg, 4.1 apg)

    G-Marcus Foster, 6-3, 210, SO (14.9 ppg, .477 3FG%)

    G-Wesley Iwundu 6-7, 205, S0, (5.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

    F-Nino Williams, 6-5, 220, SR, (11.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

    F-Thomas Gibson, 6-7, 265, SR (13.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

     

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR, (9.6 ppg, 2.8 apg)

    G-Robbert Hubbs III, 6-6, 206, SO, (4.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg)

    G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR, (15.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)

    F-Willie Carmichael III, 6-8, 210, FR, (3.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

    Setting the table 

    Saturday’s matchup is part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which, as of Friday morning, the Big 12 is off to a 4-1 start in and looks to be the heavy favorite to go home with a majority of the wins.

    KSU, ranked No. 69 nationally (via KenPom.com), has been up-and-down thus far in 2014. You could point to the Wildcats’ 69-60 loss to Long Beach State or their 70-47 drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh as evidence that the Vols will have a good chance to be in this game. But KSU also has a quality win over Purdue, and hung with No.7 Arizona in a hard-fought 72-68 loss on a neutral floor.

    Tennessee, meanwhile, has also played some top competition, hanging with Virginia Commonwealth and Kansas into the second half, but ultimately falling to both by double-figures. The Vols have wins over Santa Clara and Texas Southern, but, after building an early lead against Marquette in the third-place game of the Orlando Classic, crumbled down the stretch to fall to 2-3 on the season.

    This the first of three straight games against quality-name opponents for Tennessee with Butler and NC State up next. With the Vols coming into Saturday on a two-game losing streak, the Vols will be battling to get some wins in this portion of the schedule before some lower-tier opponents come to town to wrap up the non-conference schedule.

    Quotable

    “They’re a very disciplined and well-coached team. At the offensive end they don’t force shots, they don’t take bad ones. They’ll probably run a lot of four out, one in motion against our zone. They’re going to play smart and play hard.”

    – Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall on KSU

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Guard the 3-point line: Marquette hit 43% of its 3-pointers against the Vols in Orlando. The Vols need to tighten up on the perimeter against KSU. The Wildcats are shooting 40% for the season from behind the arc. Guard Marcus Foster is just short of a 50% 3-point shooter on the year, so the Vols will need to identify him, communicate and rotate better than they have been.

    2. Find their shot: The Vols came out blazing against Marquette, but then went cold, allowing the Golden Eagles to make a comeback and pull away late in the game. Tennessee hit just 1 of 15 3-pointer in the second half. And while KSU shoots the 3-ball well itself, perimeter defense has been a struggle at times for the Wildcats – allowing opponents to connect on 39.3% of their attempts from 3-point territory.

    3. Battle inside: Kansas State doesn’t have a ton of height and hasn’t been dominant on the boards, only out-rebounding opponents by a margin of +4.1 per game. But that’s better than Tennessee (+2.0), and the sheer size of forward Thomas Gibson (6-7, 265 pounds) should give the Vols some concern, especially with UT’s lack of girth inside.

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Tennessee 64, Kansas State 63
    Daniel: Kansas State 70, Tennessee 65
    Reed: Tennessee 72, Kansas State 68
    Houston: 
    Kansas State 73, Tennessee 63