Preview: Tennessee vs. LSU

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    Willie Carmichael-1-3LSU (17-7, 6-5 SEC) at Tennessee (14-9, 6-5 SEC)

    Saturday, Feb. 14th, 4:00 p.m. ET

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

    TV: SEC Network

    Probable LSU Starters

    G-Jalyn Patterson, 6-0, 175, FR (5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg)

    G-Keith Hornsby, 6-4, 210, JR (12.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

    G-Tim Quarterman, 6-6, 187, SO (11.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

    F-Jordan Mickey, 6-8, 235, SO (17.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg)

    F-Jarell Martin, 6-10, 235, SO (16.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

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

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.9 ppg, .408 3FG%)

    G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (6.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (10.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

    F-Willie Carmichael, 6-8, 210, FR, (3.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg)

    Setting the Table 

    The Vols snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Memorial Gym on Wednesday night, rallying from down five points with 15 seconds to force overtime, where they eventually knocked off the Commodores.

    That victory gave Tennessee a much-needed win and a nice shot of confidence after losing four of their previous five heading into that contest in Nashville. But the schedule is about to take a tough turn with arguably the two most talented teams in the conference, LSU and Kentucky, up next.

    And while the showdown with the Wildcats looms next week, all the attention Saturday will be on the Tigers, who bring one of the best front courts in the nation into Thompson-Boling Arena. Forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin average a combined 33.2 ppg and 19.8 rpg. They’ll be a massive test for a Tennessee team that lacks size doesn’t have any sort of consistent post player big enough to match up well with either.

    Tennessee will be playing with the home-court edge, but that hasn’t guaranteed success this year. The Vols have lost three of their last five at home, while LSU comes in with a 5-2 record on the road this season. The Tigers, though extremely talented, have also been inconsistent. They’ve had puzzling losses to Missouri and Mississippi State – two teams near the bottom of the SEC – but also came incredibly close to handing Kentucky its first loss this week.

    Quotable 

    “They’re not a super deep team, they’re going to play seven, seven and a half guys, but their front line is probably one of the five best front lines in America and two guys that are going to be NBA players, so we’re going to have to contain them and that’s obviously easier said that done with the lack of size on our roster.”

    – Tennessee head coach Donnie Tyndall on LSU

    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. Armani Moore has battled multiple injuries and has regularly received in-game treatments, but continues to play through the pain. 

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Limit LSU’s inside presence: Easier said than done, as Tyndall stated. The Tigers are simply loaded in the post, and seeing some of the success that Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones (6-10, 240 pounds) had against the Vols on Wednesday makes the task of guarding two strong bigs seem extremely daunting. Jones scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, helping the Commodores to a +6 margin on the boards. The Tigers, which are sixth nationally in total rebounding (40.4), will give the Vols a very tough time if UT doesn’t battle inside. The Vols will need Derek Reese, Willie Carmichael, Tariq Owens and even Armani Moore to step up on Saturday.

    2. Keep LSU’s 3-point percentage low: The Tigers are not great behind the arc, checking in at No. 221 nationally in 3-point percentage (32.9%). But teams have been lighting the Vols up from 3-point territory in recent games, with the last three opponents, Vandy, Georgia and Mississippi State shooting over 50% combined. Defending the arc will be tough with LSU’s inside presence demanding so much attention. UT will have to rotate and close out quickly on shooters and, frankly, hope that LSU’s percentage is a good indicator that they’ll miss some open ones.

    3. Attack the glass: Good things happen when Tennessee gets to the glass. Just ask Robert Hubbs after he drove all the way close to the bucket to tie it up at the end of regulation at Vandy. But again, this will be easier said than done for the Vols. Still, even with LSU’s size inside, Tennessee must be more assertive and not settle for too many bad shots. In an overtime game against Vandy, the Vols only got to the free-throw line 13 times in the entire game. Vandy, for comparison, went 30 times. Poor free-throw shooting cost Vandy in that one, but the Vols normally won’t be fortunate enough to survive a game with that kind of disparity. An added bonus of being assertive could be getting at least one of the LSU bigs in foul trouble – something that would greatly help UT’s chances.

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Tennessee 69-68
    Daniel: LSU 67-65
    Houston: Tennessee 76-71
    Reed: Tennessee 64-62