Preview: Tennessee vs. No. 19 Arkansas

    by -

    J.T. Burton-1

    Tennessee (9-5) vs. Arkansas (13-2)

    Tuesday, Jan. 13th, 7:00 p.m. ET

    Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, TN

    TV: ESPNU

    Probable Arkansas Starters

    G-Jabril Durham, 6-1, 185, JR (2.7 ppg, 2.3 apg)

    G-Michael Qualls, 6-6, 205, JR (15.8 pp, 5.3 rpg)

    G-Rashad Madden, 6-5, 182, SR (9.5 ppg, 5.3 apg)

    F-Moses Kingsley, 6-10, 230, SO (6.9 ppg, .517 FG%)

    F-Bobby Portis, 6-11, 242, SO (18.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (16.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

    G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (4.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg)

    G-Devon Baulkman, 6-5, 200, JR (5.5 ppg, .500 3FG%)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (8.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg)

    F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR, (5.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

    Setting the Table 

    Despite a tough loss to Alabama over the weekend, the Vols are still squarely in bubble territory at 9-5 (1-1 in the SEC). The Vols have won seven of their last nine games and has played the 18th-toughest schedule in the nation according to ESPN’s BPI. Though they went 1-1 last week, they struggled against both Mississippi State and Alabama to get going offensively – UT averaged just 49.5 points per game and suffered through multiple long scoreless stretches last week.

    Arkansas went 2-0 last week with a quality comeback road win against Georgia (79-75) and a comfortable home win over Vanderbilt. They’re up to No. 14 in the latest official RPI and have won seven straight games. The two Razorback losses came on the road in back-to-back games with Iowa State and Clemson. Overall, they’re 2-2 in true road games this season with wins over SMU and Georgia.

    Tennessee ranks 69th in the NCAA’s official RPI rankings that were updated on January 12th. Arkansas boasts the second-highest RPI in the SEC and, barring a collapse in conference play, the Razorbacks appear to be headed toward a solid seed in March. The Vols will be looking to move to 9-1 at home this season and need a victory to get back on track before a road trip to Missouri over the weekend.

    Quotable

    “They play 11 guys. Without a true ball handler and without a lot of playmakers, it is going to be very challenging, because they make you go make plays. They are going to switch ball screens. Even though it is going to be a big guard and a small. A small is going to have to guard a 6-9 athletic guy and be able to finish over top of someone at the back of the play. They are going to make it tough. They are going to trap us. They are going to trap ball screens and switch ball screens. They are going to trap the posts. It is going to be a very helter-skelter game, and when you don’t have a lot of playmakers, it makes it tough.”  – Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on what to expect from Arkansas

    Injuries

    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. Detrick Mostella tweaked his ankle against Mississippi State and was just playing at about 80% against Alabama according to Tyndall. Mostella is expected to be close to 100% for the Arkansas game.

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Limit Transition Buckets: Arkansas feasts on turnovers and tempo. The Razorbacks have a +4.9 turnover margin for the year and rank among the nation’s leaders in turnovers forced and steal percentage. They excel at converting those turnovers into easy buckets and are a very efficient team offensive – ranking 11th in that category per KenPom.com. Tennessee simply can’t be sloppy with the basketball and keep this one close.

    2. Attack the Basket: Alabama’s zone defense really bothered the Vols but Arkansas primarily plays man. Tennessee’s athletic guards will have plenty of opportunities to beat the Razorbacks off the bounce and open things up offensively. Arkansas is allowing opponents to shoot 48% from 2-point range and 34% from deep. If the Vols hang on to the ball and attack the bucket, they’ll get some good looks and have a shot at the upset.

    3. Supplement Richardson: Saturday’s loss to Alabama was a perfect storm for the Vols. Richardson scored eight straight points to give Tennessee a 32-30 second half lead – from there the Vols basically collapsed offensively. Alabama’s ball pressure clearly wore Richardson down and no other Vol was able to step up and provide any scoring help. Baulkman, Punter, Hubbs and Mostella need to combine for way more than seven points for the Vols to knock off the Razorbacks. A 15 point game from one of those players would go a long way towards a victory.

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Arkansas 72-68
    Daniel: Arkansas 58-51
    Houston: 
    Arkansas 75-65
    Reed: Arkansas 70-62