Tennessee (12-5) vs. Texas A&M (12-5)
Saturday, Jan. 24th, 1:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) •Knoxville, TN
TV: Fox Sports Net
Probable Texas A&M Starters
G-Alex Caruso, 6-5, 184, JR (8.9 ppg, 5.5 apg)
G-Jordan Green, 6-5, 191, SR (5.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
G-Danuel House, 6-7, 207, JR (13.7 ppg, .377 3FG%)
F-Jalen Jones, 6-7, 223, JR (13.9 ppg, .474 FG%)
F- Kourtney Roberson, 6-9 247, SR (8.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.4 ppg, .388 3FG%)
G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (5.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (9.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR, (5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Setting the Table
Thanks to Tuesday’s win at South Carolina, the Vols ride into Saturday’s contest with the Aggies on a three game winning streak. Sitting at second in the SEC standings, Tennessee has a chance to pick up a quality win over a resurgent Texas A&M team that has won three straight games and is currently fifth in the SEC. Texas A&M was picked to finish ninth in the SEC prior to the season and, like Tennessee, they’ve been overachieving thus far.
The Aggies gave Tennessee two heartbreaking losses last season when Antwan Space hit two game-winning 3-pointers. Space is 3-12 from deep this year and the Aggies as a whole aren’t a fantastic team from beyond the arc (86-256, 33.6%). Texas A&M is 1-3 in true road games this year – their lone win came Saturday at LSU (67-64).
Billy Kennedy coached against Tyndall in the Ohio Valley Conference for five seasons when Tyndall was at Morehead State and Kennedy at Murray State. Kennedy holds an 8-3 advantage in games against Tyndall coached teams.
The Vols have won 10 of their last 12 games and don’t have a bad loss on their resume. Tennessee stands at No. 42 in the NCAA’s latest official RPI while Texas A&M is right behind them at No. 43. Both the Vols and Aggies are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A win would also give Tennessee a 9-1 home record, put their SEC record at 5-1, add another quality win to their resume and help their standing among other SEC bubble teams like Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss.
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.
3 keys for the Vols
1. Clean Up Defensive Rebounding: Tennessee allowed South Carolina to grab 17 (!) offensive rebounds on Tuesday night and the Gamecocks converted those into an eight point advantage in second chance points. Texas A&M is simply a better team than South Carolina. They have more size in their starting lineup and own a +3.1 rebounding margin this year – Tennessee will have to keep the Aggies off the offensive glass to win what should be a close game.
2. Aggressively Attack Zone Defense: Alabama’s stingy zone defense resulted in a 13+ minute scoring drought for the Vols just a couple of weeks ago. Texas A&M will definitely throw some zone defense at the Vols. Tennessee has done a nice job of attacking man defenses this year (they were very efficient against South Carolina’s pressure man on Tuesday night), but they’ve struggled with indecision at times when teams go zone. Derek Reese, Robert Hubbs, Kevin Punter and Devon Baulkman have done a better job of driving and dishing of late. Their ability to attack A&M’s zone could decide this one.
3. Take Pressure Off Richardson: Josh Richardson is coming off an uncharacteristic eight turnover performance against South Carolina. He was in foul trouble for much of the game and looked a little worn down late. Punter and Hubbs combined for 21 points to help ease his burden. Richardson will have to direct the offense for much of the game, but any help he can get with both his scoring and ball handling duties should result in a much more efficient game for both Richardson and the Vols.
KenPom.com: Tennessee 62-59
Daniel: Tennessee 72-65
Houston: Tennessee 73-65
Reed: Tennessee 66-60