Preview: Tennessee vs No. 21 Arkansas

    by -

    Josh Richardson-1-27

    Tennessee (16-15) vs No. 21 Arkansas (24-7)

    Friday, March 13th, 7:00 p.m. ET

    Bridgestone Arena (20,000) • Nashville, TN

    TV: SEC Network

    Probable Arkansas Starters

    G-Anton Beard, 6-0, 195, FR (6.0 ppg, .380 3FG%)

    G-Michael Qualls, 6-6, 205, JR (15.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

    G-Rashad Madden, 6-5, 182, SR (10.0 ppg, 4.8 apg)

    F-Alandise Harris, 6-10, 230, SO (7.6 ppg, .469 FG%)

    F-Bobby Portis, 6-11, 242, SO (17.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg)

    Probable Tennessee Starters

    G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200, SR (15.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

    G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, JR (10.7 ppg, .429 3FG%)

    G-Robert Hubbs, 6-6, 206, SO (6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg)

    F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, JR (10.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

    F-Derek Reese, 6-8, 220, JR, (6.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

    Setting the Table 

    After an improbable comeback win over Vanderbilt last night, the Vols should be playing with some confidence. They won’t be as fresh as Arkansas, however, since the Razorbacks will be playing their first game since Saturday – a disappointing home loss to LSU.

    In their two meetings this season, Arkansas and Tennessee each scored 138 points. Tennessee won by five points in Knoxville and Arkansas won by five points in Fayetteville.

    The Razorbacks are solidly in the NCAA Tournament field while the Vols are trying to play their way into the NIT picture. Tennessee probably needs two more SEC Tournament wins, which means playing in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, to have a solid chance at an NIT berth.

    A win would move Tennessee to 17-15 on the season and guarantee at least a .500 record for the year. It would also give them two wins over Arkansas, the second best team in the SEC (No. 22 in the RPI).

    Quotable

    “They’re well coached. Mike’s teams always, always play hard. They have obviously a first round pick in Bobby that anchors everything they do offensively and defensively. They’re going to press and get after us a lot like we try to play. I think the biggest thing for us will be we have to contain dribble penetration. Do the best we can to try to neutralize Portis inside.

    “Then the second part of that is if we do make them miss, we got to be able to rebound the ball. If you give that team second and third shot opportunity, you got no chance.”

    – Tennessee Head Coach Donnie Tyndall on playing 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, had surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season.

    3 keys for the Vols

    1. Limit Turnovers: This one is no secret – Tennessee beat the Razorbacks in Knoxville thanks in large part to +4 turnover margin. Arkansas is a supremely athletic team that can flat out destroy teams in the open floor. In Tennessee’s loss to the Razorbacks, the Vols outscored the Razorbacks by nine in the points off turnovers category – which kept them in the game until the end. Tennessee only committed six turnovers last night against Vanderbilt. That number will be higher against Arkansas, but the Vols have to keep turnovers in check and force a few of their own. 

    2. Rebound, Rebound, Rebound: Arkansas has a talented and tall frontline, but in their games with the Vols this year, they’ve been held in check on the glass. Tennessee actually holds a 64-63 rebounding edge over Arkansas this season – a huge reason they’ve played them so well.

    3. Quality Bench Minutes, Balanced Scoring: Armani Moore and Kevin Punter, Tennessee’s best scorers outside of Richardson this season, combined to go 3-15 from the floor against Vanderbilt last night. The Vols were fortunate to win a game without a ton of production from them and simply can’t beat a talented Arkansas team without more scoring from Punter and Moore. The Vols had four players play at least 30 minutes last night, so they’ll also need some quality bench minutes – like Baulkman gave last night. He scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and recorded two steals in 23 minutes of play. Keeping Robert Hubbs, who averaged 15.5 ppg against the Razorbacks this year and is fresh off a 16 point performance, will be key as well. The Vols are simply a much better team when he’s scoring at a consistent level. 

    Predictions

    KenPom.com: Arkansas 73-68
    Daniel: Arkansas 72-71
    Houston: Tennessee 70-69
    Reed: Arkansas 70-63