Tennessee (4-3) vs. NC State (8-2)
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 7:00 p.m. ET
PNC Arena (19,772) • Raleigh, NC
Probable NC State Starters
G-Anthony “Cat” Barber, 6-2, 180, SO (11.9 ppg, 3.5 apg)
G- Trevor Lacey, 6-3, 208, JR (16.9 ppg, .425 3FG%)
G-Ralston Turner, 6-5, 205, SR (13.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
F-Lennard Freeman, 6-8, 250, SO (4.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg)
F-BeeJay Anya, 6-9, 295, SO (4.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.4 ppg, 2.4 apg)
G-Devon Baulkman, 6-5, 200, JR (2.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (10.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
F-Willie Carmichael III, 6-8, 210, FR, (3.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Setting the Table
NC State is coming off a 55-54 home loss to Wofford on Sunday and will certainly be motivated to get back in the win column against the Vols. Wofford is expected to win the Southern Conference and should be in the NCAA Tournament in March. NC State is 8-1 at home this season with their most notable win coming over tournament hopeful Boise State – a team ranked 70th in KenPom.com’s rankings.
They rank in the top-70 nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency and 10th in field goal percentage defense according to KenPom.com – who has them as the No. 48 team in the country.
The Vols will be playing their first true road game of the season. Tennessee is 1-3 away from Thompson-Boling Arena with their three losses coming by an average of 13 points.
Tennessee enters the game with undeniable momentum after going 2-0 against Kansas State and Butler – two games many predicted the Vols would lose. In fact, Tennessee looks a bit like a bubble team according to CBSSports.com – who has the Vols in the first four out in their latest bracketology.
While it’s a little crazy to talk brackets this early, if the Vols down NC State and take care of business in four winnable non-conference home games to close out the year, UT would be 9-3 headed into SEC play. Even with a loss, 8-4 would put the Vols in position to make some noise in SEC play and be in the bubble conversation as the season progresses – something no one expected prior to the season of a team picked to finish 13th in the SEC.
“They’re the most talented team we’ve played with the possible exception of Kansas. Their point guard is a pro. He’s going to play in the NBA. He’s unbelievably fast with the basketball. They have two wings that can really, really shoot it with range. And then their big guys around the goal aren’t scoring it at a high clip, but they’re athletic, they’re long and they’re great shot blockers.”
– Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall on NC State
3 keys for the Vols
1. Keep Trevor Lacey in Check: The former Alabama guard is undoubtably NC State’s best player. Tennessee will have to keep Lacey out of the lane and guard him closely at the 3-point line to have a shot. If he gets to the basket and collapses UT’s zone defense, NC State should be able to simply outscore Tennessee – a shootout isn’t in UT’s favor. The Vol defense has been rotating much better the last two weeks and will have to continue to improve to down the Wolfpack.
2. Get Punter and/or Mostella Going…Again: This will be a running key to every game for the Vols this year. Tennessee got 18 points from Kevin Punter against Butler – the Vols will need complimentary double-digit scorer to help ease Richardson’s scoring burden. Mostella, Punter and/or Baulkman scoring in double-figures will be vital to Tennessee’s chances.
3. Rebound, Rebound, Rebound: NC State is one of the best rebounding teams the Vols have faced and Tennessee has struggled to keep teams off the glass. NC State’s athleticism up front will pose problems for the Vols – keeping the rebounding disparity close and rebounding without fouling will be key to a Vol victory.
KenPom.com: NC State 69-63
Daniel: NC State 76-60
Houston: NC State 68-58
Reed: NC State 72-60