What to Know: Tennessee at Georgia

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    SEC play is in full swing in men’s basketball, and both Tennessee and Georgia could really use a win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

    The Vols (10-5, 2-1 SEC) are riding a two-game winning streak in the conference while the Bulldogs (10-5, 0-2) have lost two-straight SEC contests. Georgia’s losses have come against arguably the top two teams in the conference, falling 78-69 at home to Kentucky and 82-60 on the road against Auburn. Tennessee, meanwhile, has beaten Missouri and South Carolina after dropping their SEC opener against LSU.

    Georgia entered SEC play on a four-game winning streak, capping off non-conference play with a 65-62 victory over then-No. 9 Memphis. The Bulldogs also played Michigan State tough earlier this season, losing 93-85 to the Spartans. But Georgia has also been blown out by Dayton and Arizona State.

    Tennessee has had to reset their season about four different times thanks to injuries, roster attrition, and roster additions, and that includes Wednesday night’s game against Georgia. But more on that in a minute.

    The Vols have solid wins over Washington and VCU, but they’ve lost to Memphis and Florida State and lost by double digits to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and LSU.

    These two teams desperately need a victory to help boost their NCAA Tournament resume, and both teams will go about trying to get that win in very different ways.

    Here’s everything to know about Tennessee’s match-up with Georgia on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM on ESPNU.

    Uros Freed

    Tennessee found out on Tuesday afternoon that seven-foot Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic has finally been cleared to play for the Vols this season, and he can play immediately, starting with Wednesday night’s game against Georgia.

    Assuming there are no unforeseen holdups, Plavsic will be making his Tennessee debut tonight, just two and a half weeks after the Vols had another player — point guard Santiago Vescovi — make his UT debut.

    The seven-foot center will be tested in his first game, as he’ll likely be matched up against Georgia’s star forward Rayshaun Hammonds whenever he’s on the court. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward leads the Bulldogs in rebounding (8.7 per game) and is second on the team in scoring (13.6 PPG). Georgia doesn’t have a ton of size outside of Hammonds, as freshmen Toumani Camara and Christian Brown are the only other Bulldogs over 6-foot-6 who play any significant minutes. Star guard Anthony Edwards is 6-foot-5 and is plenty capable of driving to the basket, however.

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    Culture Clash

    Tennessee likes to play it slow and rely on their defense to win games. Georgia likes to score and create as many possessions as they can.

    Something has to give.

    The Vols come into Wednesday’s game giving up just 59.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in all of Division I basketball. They’re holding teams to just 38.5 percent shooting overall and only 40.8 percent shooting inside the three-point arc, which is the eighth-best defensive percentage in the entire country.

    Not only that, but the Vols run at one of the slowest paces in college basketball. According to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo metric, Tennessee averages 65.9 possessions a game, which ranks 303rd out of 353 Division I teams. The Vols are only averaging 54.3 field goal attempts a game, and they’re holding opponents to 56.3 field goal attempts per game.

    Georgia, on the other hand, likes to put up shots, and they’re very effective inside the three-point line.

    The Bulldogs are averaging 78.7 points a game, which ranks 33rd in the country. They’re shooting 46.1 percent overall as a team, and that includes making 55.2 percent of their two-point field goals, which ranks 24th in the country. Georgia also runs at a much faster pace on offense than UT, ranking 61st in the KenPom adjust tempo rankings by averaging 71.5 possessions a game. The Bulldogs put up 63.1 shots per game.

    Tennessee has done a phenomenal job at shutting down teams inside the three-point line and runs a slow pace. Georgia thrives on making shots inside the perimeter and likes to speed things up. Whoever controls the pace and controls the mid-range and paint area will likely control this game.

    Tons of Talent

    Last year, the talk around Tennessee basketball was how the Vols managed to have a ton of success despite all of UT’s major contributors being three-stars in the recruiting process. This year’s team features a five-star and a couple of four-stars who are regular starters, but the amount of pure talent on Georgia’s roster is one of the best in the SEC.

    Not only do the Bulldogs boast Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 player in the 2019 class per 247Sports, but six other players on UGA’s roster were rated as four-stars by 247Sports.

    Forward Rayshaun Hammonds, point guard Sahvir Wheeler, guard Tyree Crump, forward Christian Brown, forward Toumani Camara, and forward Jaykwon Walton were all rated as four-stars in the recruiting process, and all but Walton play consistent roles on Georgia’s roster.

    With the injury to Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith, Edwards is now the second-leading scorer in the entire SEC at 18.7 points per game, though he also takes the most shots of any player in the SEC as well. Hammonds ranks third in the SEC in rebounds per game at 8.7, and Wheeler’s 5.0 assists per game rank fifth in the conference. Brown and Camara have played in all 15 games, and Camara has started the last six contests, averaging 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in that span.

    Trouble in Athens

    Tennessee owns two-straight wins over Georgia in men’s hoops, but the Bulldogs have given the Vols a ton of issues over the last decade, specifically on their homecourt in Athens.

    Before the Vols’ last two wins against the Bulldogs, Georgia had beaten Tennessee five-straight times and owned victories over UT in nine of the last 11 meetings between the two teams. Tennessee has particularly struggled in Stegeman Coliseum, losing five consecutive road games to Georgia. The Vols haven’t won in Athens since all the way back in 2011, a 59-57 victory.

    All-time, the Vols are just 33-39 against UGA in Athens, and Tennessee is only 1-6 in their last seven trips down to Georgia. The last time the Vols took on the Bulldogs in Stegeman Coliseum, Georgia beat Tennessee by a score of 73-62 in 2018.

    Tennessee is just 6-10 against Georgia dating back to the 2009-10 season.