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Basketball Preview: We’re Talking Tennessee

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No one will be volunteering to play this team come March

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Last Time Out

In another less than stellar performance the Cyclones fell to Mo Bamba and the Texas Longhorns by a score of 73-57. Bamba, a projected NBA lottery pick, had his way early and often against the Cyclones. After establishing domination in the paint, the seven footer stepped out behind the three point line and drained two shots from behind the arc.

Cameron Lard had another rock solid performance with 12 points and 12 boards. His fellow freshman teammate Lindell Wigginton found his groove for a stretch in the second half but it was too little too late. His 15 point performance was certainly a good sign for the future though.

About Tennessee

Same colors, same coach, different team. If the head coach of the Volunteers looks familiar, he is. Rick Barnes, the former Texas Longhorns coach, now leads the Tennessee basketball program. Like most of his previous trips to Hilton Coliseum, Rick Barnes will be arriving with a really solid team.

When the game was announced fans weren’t incredibly excited about it. Let’s face it though, although the SEC is trending in a positive direction there aren’t too many teams other than Kentucky that have the name or prestige to get an opposing fan base excited.

Just because the Volunteers aren’t a blue blood, doesn’t mean they can’t play some ball. Boasting one of the most impressive resume-building wins this season (beating Purdue in the Battle for Atlantis) Rick Barnes has this program headed back toward the NCAA tournament.

Historically, national champions have ranked inside the top 40 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Currently the Volunteers sit inside the top 25 in both categories. This doesn’t mean they are a national championship contender, but they are pretty damn good.

This team won’t play at lightning quick pace, but they will share the ball ranking 10th in the country in assists to field goals made, and they will live at the free throw line where they score 22.7% of their points. Their kryptonite is allowing opponents to crash the offensive glass, allowing these teams to grab 32.7% of their misses. Cameron Lard and Solomon Young could be busy.

Players to Watch

Grant Williams is the alpha dog of this SEC squad. This sophomore is averaging 16.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. He will take almost 29% of his team’s shots when he is on the floor and most of them will be inside the arc. He has made only three shots from deep this season, which makes ISU fans irrationally nervous for Saturday.

Williams will be surrounded by plenty of shooters. Five Tennessee players are shooting over 31% from three point range including Jordan Bowden who is third in the nation at 53.8%! As a team the Volunteers are just under 40% from deep. I’m not dry-heaving, you are.

What to Expect

With this team, the results are hard to predict. When the shots aren’t falling, the team looks like it could lose to anyone. When the shots are falling, the team could play with almost anyone. Their defense should continue to get better as Wigginton and Lard learn on the fly. However, Iowa State’s weakness is guarding the perimeter and Tennessee’s strength is connecting from deep.

This team has played well the last two times inside Hilton Coliseum. That alone is a start to increasing expectations for next season.

Iowa State has a couple of things going for them in this contest. They should be able to collect offensive rebounds making up for a lack of first shot execution. The second is of course Hilton Coliseum.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, let’s pick the Cyclones to win by fo’

Iowa State- 83 Tennessee- 79

Pick Three

  1. Tennessee connects on 13 three pointers
  2. Cameron Lard records another double-double
  3. Donovan Jackson goes for 20+

Game Notes

Game Time: Saturday, January 27th, 3 PM

Line: Tennessee (-2.5) O/U (146)

TV: ESPNU