Preview: Tennessee vs. No. 15 Butler

    by -

    Kevin Punter-1-7

    Tennessee (3-3) vs. Butler (8-1)

    Sunday, Dec. 14, 2:00 p.m. ET

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

    TV: ESPNU

    Probable Butler Starters

    G-Roosevelt Jones, 6-4, 227, JR (11.1 ppg, 5.3 apg)

    G- Kellen Dunham, 6-6, 185, JR (16.3 ppg, .477 3FG%)

    G-Alex Barlow, 5-11, 187, SR, (7.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg)

    F- Andrew Chrabascz, 6-7, 205, SO, (8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

    F-Kameron Woods, 6-9, 200, SR (7.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR, (16.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR, (9.2 ppg, 2.7 apg)

    G-Detrick Mostella, 6-6, 206, SO, (7.7 ppg, .320 3FG%)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (11.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

    F-Willie Carmichael III, 6-8, 210, FR, (4.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

    Setting the Table 

    The Bulldogs are ranked 15th in the AP Poll and 19th in the Coaches Poll. Their lone loss came against No. 16 Oklahoma. Butler defeated then-No. 5 North Carolina on November 26th and beat Georgetown two days later. They rank 11th nationally in defensive efficiency, 13th in 3-point defense, 15th in steal percentage and 89th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com – who has them as the No. 26 team in the country.

    In Butler’s loss to Oklahoma, the Bulldogs shot just 24% from the floor and 17% from 3-point range. Even in that loss, Butler won the turnover battle (16-10) and was competitive on the boards (losing that battle 41-32). This will be Butler’s second true road game of the season. Their first came at Indiana State – a 77-54 win for the Bulldogs.

    Tennessee is 2-0 at home this season with wins over Texas Southern and Kansas State – two teams who should be in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament berth at season’s end. The Vols travel to North Carolina State on Wednesday for their first road game of the season. A win over Butler would give the team undeniable momentum heading into that contest.

    Tyndall’s squad will be playing without Dominic Woodson, a 6-10, 275 pound power forward, who is no longer a part of the team and will transfer from the program. Woodson did not practice with the team the last two weeks and was averaging 3.5 points per game, 2.0 rebounds per game and 12 minutes of court time in his four appearances for the Vols this season. Tennessee is 2-0 in games played without Woodson this season.

    Quotable

    “They’re well-coached. Their system, their style of play, their experience kinda goes from year to year. They may be the same team with different names and faces…They’re disciplined. They’re much more physical than maybe you would think when you look at them. They beat great teams already and they certainly are a top-15 team for a reason.”

    – Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall on Butler

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Keep Butler off the LineTennessee has been outscored at the charity stripe by 36 points this season and Butler ranks 30th in the nation in free throw attempts. That’s a dangerous combination for the Vols. Tennessee shouldn’t have to outscore Butler at the line to win this game, but they won’t be able to overcome a giant disparity in that area. Against Kansas State, the Vols committed a season-low 19 fouls. A similar performance against the Bulldogs should have Tyndall’s squad in a competitive game.

    2. Get Punter and/or Mostella Going: Punter is shooting just 18% from deep this season and he’s a much better shooter than that – he shot 37% from 3-point range last season in JUCO ball and he connected on multiple contested 3s in 5-on-5 portions of practice this week. He has the ability to score in a hurry and big game from him would go a long way toward knocking off Butler. Likewise, double-digit points from Detrick Mostella would be huge for Tennessee’s upset chances. Mostella averaged 15.0 points per game in UT’s previous two matchups with top-15 teams this season.

    3. Keep the Turnover Battle Close: The first thing Tennessee’s coaching staff pointed out about Butler is that they don’t beat themselves. That’s abundantly true. Butler ranks 5th nationally in turnover margin (+5.9 per game) – one spot ahead of VCU. Tennessee defeated Kansas State last weekend thanks, primarily, to a +12 turnover margin. Butler won’t turn the ball over 22 times like KSU and Tennessee will have to keep turnovers at a minimum, and force a few uncharacteristic Butler turnovers, to pull off the upset.

    The Vols, notably, rank 100th nationally in fewest turnovers (12.3) and 69th in turnovers forced (15.2 per game). Butler ranks 47th in fewest turnovers (11.4 per game) and 12th in turnovers forced (17.3 per game).

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Butler 62, Tennessee 60
    Daniel: Butler 72, Tennessee 64
    Houston:
    Butler 68, Tennessee 60
    Reed: Butler 65, Tennessee 60 – The Vols aren’t quite ready to knock off a team of Butler’s caliber, but this one should be very, very close.