Tennessee (10-5) at Missouri (7-9)
Saturday, Jan. 17th, 6:00 p.m. ET
Mizzou Arena (15,061) • Columbia, MO
TV: SEC Network
Probable Missouri Starters
G-Keith Shamburger, 5-11, 170, SR (8.8 ppg, 3.2 apg)
G-Wes Clark, 6-0, 185, SO (9.5 pp, 3.7 rpg)
G-Namon Wright, 6-5, 200, FR (5.3 ppg, .450 3FG%)
F-Jakeenan Gant, 6-8, 207, FR (6.5 ppg, .576 FG%)
F-Johnathan Williams III, 6-9, 225, SO (13.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (16.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (5.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
G-Devon Baulkman, 6-5, 200, JR (5.2 ppg, .467 3FG%)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (9.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR, (5.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Setting the Table
Tennessee bounced back from a tough weekend loss to Alabama with a 74-69 victory over No. 19 Arkansas on Tuesday. At 10-5 (2-1 in the SEC) with wins over two ranked teams, the Vols are in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth at the halfway mark of the season. The Vols have won eight of their last ten games and don’t have a bad loss on their resume.
Donnie Tyndall’s Vols come in at 54th in the NCAA’s latest official RPI and the Vols are IN the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed according to Jerry Palm’s most recent projections. In order to keep their tournament momentum going, they can’t suffer was the selection committee would likely deem a “bad loss” at Missouri.
The Tigers are coming off a two game road trip which saw them go 0-2. They battled but fell to Auburn by six points on Saturday and got thrashed by Kentucky (86-37) on Tuesday. They have the second lowest RPI of any team in the SEC (No. 142) but are 6-2 at home this year with a quality win over projected tournament team LSU.
The Vols will be looking to move to 2-0 on the road in conference play this season and need to avoid a loss to one of the bottom-tier teams in the SEC to keep improving their bubble status.
“They’re very similar to us. They don’t have a big physical front line, although they do have one junior college guy that would fit that mold. They have long, rangy front line players in the mold of Willie [Carmichael] and Tariq [Owens] that can block shots and can really run. Their bigs get their buckets, for the most part, on help ups and help overs on pick and rolls like Willie does.
“Their guards are playing very well with a lot of confidence. We beat them last year in the NIT and those young guards weren’t playing a whole lot. They had a pretty veteran backcourt – both guys went pro – and these young guys are playing well and playing with a lot of confidence.”
– Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on Missouri
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 looks to be close to 100% after injuring his ankle last Wednesday against Mississippi State.
3 keys for the Vols
1. Force Turnovers: After watching the Vols work on their full court press on Thursday, it’s clear the coaching staff thinks they’ll be able to use their length at the guard position to force turnovers. Missouri has a -1.2 turnover margin on the year (the Vols are +2.5) and the Tigers will be at a height and athletic disadvantage on the perimeter. Missouri’s starting guards are 5-11, 6-0 and 6-5 while every guard Tennessee starts is at least 6-5. Tennessee’s length and athleticism should be a big advantage for the Vols. If Tennessee decisively wins the turnover battle, the Vols should emerge victorious.
2. Get Punter On Track: Tennessee junior guard Kevin Punter is returning to the school where he was once committed and the state where he earned JUCO All-American honors – maybe that will break him out of his 1-15 shooting slump. Punter has been one of the most consistent scorers on the team this season and regularly lights it up in practice. No one works harder on his shot so it’s just a matter of time before Punter, who scored 18 points in two games this season, gets back on track. He had a good day of practice on Thursday and the Vols need him to return to the double-digit scorer he’s been this season to pick up a road win against a decent Missouri team.
3. Take Care of Business: Wins on the road are tough to come by in the SEC and the Vols have a golden opportunity to move to 2-0 in road SEC games. Missouri is a solid opponent that knocked off a good LSU team in their last home game, but they’re also a team the Vols should probably beat. The Tigers will likely throw some zone defense at the Vols and Tennessee will have to solve that riddle, which they weren’t able to do against Alabama last week, in order to win. On the other end, the Vol zone should cause a young Missouri team some problems. As long as Tennessee plays with the effort we’ve seen from them consistently this year and knocks down a couple of shots, they should move to 11-5 this season. The Vols are in the bubble conversation and this is exactly the type of game bubble teams have to win to keep marching toward a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
KenPom.com: Tennessee 62-61
Daniel: Tennessee 63-60
Houston: Tennessee 67-52
Reed: Tennessee 67-60