Tennessee (9-4) vs. Alabama (11-3)
Saturday, Jan. 10th, 2:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, TN
TV: SEC Network
Probable Alabama Starters
G-Ricky Tarrant, 6-2, 190, JR (13.2 ppg, 2.2 spg)
G-Levi Randolph, 6-5, 208, SR (15.7 ppg, 2.9 apg)
G-Rodney Cooper, 6-6, 218, SR (10.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
F-Michael Kessens, 6-9, 223, SO (7.8 ppg, .557 FG%)
F-Jimmie Taylor, 6-10, 240, FR (4.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.8 ppg, .405 3FG%)
G-Devon Baulkman, 6-5, 200, JR (6.0 ppg, .519 3FG%)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (9.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
F-Willie Carmichael III, 6-8, 210, FR, (4.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Setting the Table
Tennessee is squarely in bubble territory at 9-4 (1-0 in the SEC) headed into Saturday’s matchup with the Crimson Tide. The Vols have played the 18th-toughest schedule in the nation according to ESPN’s BPI and they should move up in that ranking after Saturday’s game. While the Vols didn’t play particularly well during their 61-47 victory in Starkville on Wednesday, they do enter this game with undeniable momentum after winning seven of their last eight games.
The Tide are coming off a 65-44 home victory over a solid Texas A&M team (No. 55 in the RPI). They have quality wins over Arizona State and UCLA on their resume plus a one-point loss at Wichita St. Alabama is 0-2 in true road games this season (with losses at Xavier and Wichita State) and 1-3 outside of Coleman Coliseum.
Tennessee ranks 60th in the NCAA’s official RPI rankings that were updated on January 8th. Alabama stands at 47th and will have a great shot to be an NCAA Tournament team when March rolls around. They have the fourth-highest RPI in the SEC and would certainly represent a quality win for the Vols.
The Vols will be looking to move to 8-0 at home this season and establish their first six-game winning streak since February of 2013. A victory would give UT a 2-0 record in SEC play headed into yet another big game with No. 23 Arkansas (7 pm in Knoxville on Tuesday, TV: ESPNU) – a team that is likely NCAA Tournament bound.
“We have a great deal of respect for Alabama. They’re a very, very good team. We’re going to need all the extra help we can get. We’ve had good home crowds to this point. Our crowds have gotten into the game during stretches of the games to help us get a lot of key wins. We want to make it that much tougher on Alabama.” – Donnie Tyndall on Alabama and his push to pack Thompson-Boling Arena for the game
Freshman Vol power forward Jabari McGhee is likely out for the season after foot surgery. Junior Guard Devon Baulkman will be playing with a torn ligament in his left shoulder, but he has been effective. Ian Chiles, who missed significant time this season due to toe and shoulder injuries, will have surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. The Vols will only have nine scholarship players available. Detrick Mostella tweaked his ankle against Mississippi State on Wednesday. He will play against Alabama but is not expected to be 100%.
3 keys for the Vols
1. Find Points in the Paint: Armani Moore went scoreless against Mississippi State before fouling out of the game. Tennessee was fortunate to down the Bulldogs without points from Moore and won’t be able to repeat that against one of the SEC’s better teams. Moore needs to get back on track and the Vols, who made just seven buckets from 2-point range against MSU, need to attack the basket against the Tide.
2. Take Care of the Ball: The Vols are coming off a game in which they committed an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers. Alabama does a good job of pressuring the ball and using their length and athleticism to disrupt the offenses of opponents. Tennessee needs to hover around their 12 turnover per game average to knock off a very good Tide team.
3. Keep the Tide off the Line: Tennessee did a horrible job in this area against MSU – they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 44 free throws and committed 32 fouls. Alabama ranks 32nd nationally in free throw percentage (74.4%) and the Vols simply can’t give the Tide free points and remain undefeated at home. The path to a victory starts with keeping Alabama’s talented guards in front of them.
KenPom.com: Tennessee 64-62
Daniel: Tennessee 67-60
Houston: Tennessee 70-62
Reed: Tennessee 66-63