Preview: Tennessee vs. Auburn

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    Devon Baulkman-1-3

    Tennessee (12-7) vs. No. Auburn (10-10)

    Saturday, Jan. 31st, 12:0o p.m. ET

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

    TV: ESPN2

    Probable Auburn Starters

    G-Antoine Mason, 6-1, 216, SR (14.1 ppg, .349 3FG%)

    G-KT Harrell, 6-4, 212, SR (17.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

    G-K.C. Ross-Miller, 6-0, 178, SR (6.2 ppg, 2.1 spg)

    F-Jordon Granger, 6-8, 210, JR (5.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

    F-Cinmeon Bowerss, 6-7, 278, JR (13.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.7 ppg, .400 3FG%)

    G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (6.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (9.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

    F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR, (5.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

    Setting the Table 

    Tennessee has lost two straight games while Auburn has lost three straight. Perhaps more concerning, the Vols didn’t play well in their last two Saturday homes games – both losses – and even though they should beat Auburn, they’ll have to come out more motivated than they did against Texas A&M and Alabama.

    The Vols are 8-3 in their last 11 games while Auburn is 2-5 in their last seven outings. Tennessee sits at 4-3 in SEC play. With two winnable games against Auburn and Mississippi State – the two worst teams in the SEC –upcoming, the Vols have a great shot to hit the halfway mark of the league schedule with a 6-3 record. Auburn has the second lowest RPI in the conference (No. 162) while the Volunteers sit at No. 54 in the NCAA’s latest official rankings.

    Tennessee can’t afford a bad home loss and remain in bubble territory. Auburn is winless on the road this season and the Vols have won seven straight in the series.

    Quotable

    “They can really score in bunches. They have some guys on the perimeter – Harrell, Canada and the transfer Mason – that can score in bunches. They’re very dangerous. When they get it going, they play with a swagger and freedom offensively that really scares you. Defensively, they’re going to press you. It may not be trap after trap, but they’re going to really try to create turnovers by denying the ball inbounds. In the half court, they play very solid man to man defense. I don’t expect it to be anything different than we’ve seen from other opponents. It’s just a tough league game against a tough team that’s very well coached.”

    – Tennessee Head Coach Donnie Tyndall on Auburn

    “We will then start to focus on (Josh) Richardson and (Kevin) Punter in more one-on-one as they create isolating situations. We will think about how we will have to deal with their length, particularly in the backcourt because they are terrifically long and dealing with attacking their zone. It is something that we have not played against all year long. We have practiced it, but it is hard to duplicate.

    “Attacking their pressure without turning the ball over because they do a really good job in creating live-ball turnovers and they score out of those turnovers. We have to mix our inside attack with our outside attack. Sometimes you will settle and live on the perimeter against the zone. We have to do a good job of that. It will all be about the things we do to compete and put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win the basketball game. That is what the focus will be.”

    – Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl on Tennessee

    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, had surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season.

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Don’t Let Harrell Beat You: The Vols have struggled with teams that shoot the ball well from beyond the arc – Auburn isn’t one of those teams (at 32.4% from 3 this season), but KT Harrell is deadly from nearly everywhere on the court. The No. 2 scorer in the SEC, Harrell is shooting 43.3% from 3-point range. He’s going to get his, but Tennessee will be in trouble if Harrell catches fire from 3 and scores over 20 points.

    2. Reese vs. Bowers: Derek Reese is in a bit of a two game slump. In Vol losses to Arkansas and Texas A&M, Reese was a combined 2-7 from the floor for five points. Getting caught out of position defensively led to early foul trouble for Reese in those two games and if he doesn’t correct that when fronting the 278 pound Bowers, he’s bound to be in foul trouble yet again. 

    3. Positive Turnover Margin: Tennessee and Auburn both rely on turnovers to create offense and put together scoring runs. They both rank inside the top-30 nationally in turnover percentage and both have around a +2 turnover margin this season. Vol fans should be familiar with Pearl’s teams. They’re really tough to beat when they’re forcing turnovers and playing in the open floor, but imminently beatable when they’re forced into a half court game. Tennessee has been much more efficient offensively this year. If the Vols can get a few easy points and limit Auburn to a half court game, Tennessee should march to a decisive victory. 

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Tennessee 68-60
    Daniel: Tennessee 68-60
    Houston: Tennessee 74-59
    Reed: Tennessee 70-60