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No. 4 Kentucky @ No. 16 Tennessee: Predictions and Analysis

NCAAM 2/15 Preview: Kentucky (+1) Can Get The Job Done Against Tennessee Tonight

The Vols and Wildcats will surely put the “Super” in Super Tuesday tonight in Knoxville. No. 16 Tennessee and No. 4 Kentucky will clash inside of Thompson-Boling Arena exactly one month after the Vols’ 28-point loss in Rupp Arena.

In the first meeting between both teams in January, both Tennessee and Kentucky shot over 53 percent from the field and more than 47 percent from three-point range. What was quickly forgotten about that game was that it was one of Tennessee’s best shooting games of the year. The issue for Tennessee, though, was that Kentucky probably would have beaten anyone in the country on that afternoon. The ‘Cats were shooting lights out, ending the game at almost 70 percent from the field.

Vols Gameday: Tennessee Looking To Turn Tide In Highly Anticipated Kentucky Rematch

So, after getting 107 points dropped on them a month ago, the Vols will be out for revenge in front of their home crowd tonight.

Since that game in Lexington, both Tennessee and Kentucky have put together some of their best basketball of the season. In the last month, both teams have only lost once as Tennessee fell to Texas and Kentucky lost on the road in Auburn.

Here’s a look at the most important storylines heading into Tuesday night’s showdown.

Keys to Victory: Tennessee

The paint is going to be a battlefield during this game. That’s not even a key to victory for either team, no, that’s just the reality. Tennessee will have to come in with and execute a plan on the glass considering Kentucky is the top rebounding team in the country. In addition, the Wildcats also have the nation’s top rebounder in Oscar Tshiebwe. It will be interesting to see how Tennessee uses Jonas Aidoo and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield in the absence of Olivier Nkamhoua.

In the first matchup, Tennessee was consistently hurt from turnovers. The Vols had eight more than the Wildcats, which led to Kentucky’s 32 points off turnovers compared to Tennessee’s 11. The Vols have to be better at taking care of the ball because Kentucky is more than good enough to take advantage of Tennessee’s mistakes once again.

TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler combined for 49 points, 13 assists, and 18 made shots against Tennessee in Lexington. However, this time around, Washington’s status is up in the air. After suffering an injury during the Wildcats’ last game, it doesn’t sound like Washington had any kind of serious concerns but still could miss the game in Knoxville according to Calipari.

Since the loss to Texas, Tennessee G/F Josiah-Jordan James is averaging 16.5 points per contest and has emerged as a clear player-leader on this team. Tennessee will need their perimeter players ready to roll against a Kentucky team that can shoot the ball as well as they can drive it to the hoop.

Tennessee Kentucky
Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler at Rupp Arena. Photo by Ric Butler/RTI.

Keys to Victory: Kentucky

Kentucky is playing as good as anyone in the country right now as shown by their six-game win streak. The ‘Cats just dismantled Florida in a game in which Tshiebwe scored 27 points and Kentucky hauled in a monster 17 offensive rebounds.

Without Olivier Nkamhoua on the court, Kentucky will surely look to push the ball inside to build some foundation early in the game. Kentucky will likely look to assert some dominance early in the game to set the pace and tone of the upcoming 40-minute game.

Kentucky’s guards did a considerable amount of the damage against Tennessee in the first matchup, but that could be different this time around. Wheeler has been fairly cold in his recent stretch of games, falling short of double-digit scoring in his last five games. Additionally, it’s still fairly unknown how much of a setback Washington’s injury will be. Regardless, though, Kentucky has scoring options all over the court.


All four of Kentucky’s losses this year have been on the road: Duke, Notre Dame, LSU, and Auburn. Meanwhile, Tennessee has not lost at home this season. That’s not a bad setup for Super Tuesday.

Tennessee’s crowd will undoubtedly be a factor. Even without it being a weekend game, the contest is set for late Tuesday night, giving attendees ample time to get to the arena after the workday. As cliche as it can be sometimes, Tennessee’s crowd will certainly be an x-factor in this game.

As the Tennessee players say each week, the next game on the schedule is the biggest game of the year. However, this may actually be the biggest to the point so far. Tennessee has finally found some swagger, some confidence, a new spring in their step after losses to Kentucky and Texas in January. Tennessee is currently playing their best basketball when they need it most.

But at the same time, Kentucky, again, is playing as good as anyone in the country.

Tennessee had one of their best shooting nights of the year in a loss in which they never had a chance at winning. While the route to the end result will likely look wildly different in Knoxville, the result could still look similar. Look for this to be a close game in the second half, but Kentucky may just have more firepower to pull away late.

No. 4 Kentucky 78, No. 16 Tennessee 74

RTI’s Ryan Schumpert:

The loss in Lexington last month proved as a turning point for Tennessee. The Vols have won seven out of eight since including seven straight conference wins. On the other side, Kentucky’s win boosted them to an elite stretch of basketball. The Wildcats lone loss since came at Auburn and Kentucky is playing as well as anyone in the country. TyTy Washington’s status will make a big impact but Kentucky’s front court and Oscar Tsheibwe’s dominance are too much for me to pick against.

No. 4 Kentucky 74, No. 16 Tennessee 71

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