Tennessee Volunteers at Kentucky Wildcats: Game Preview

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky and Tennessee meet for the only time this season in an ancient basketball rivalry.

It's time once again for the renewal of the longest-running basketball series in the SEC — the Tennessee Volunteers and Kentucky Wildcats. This is one of those games that are what I would call "old timey" SEC basketball contests. Kentucky and Tennessee have been playing each other in basketball almost unbroken since 1910. It is the longest, and most storied basketball rivalry in the SEC without a doubt, but recently diminished due to an SEC decision to only allow the two teams to meet once this season to accommodate the desire for filthy lucre among other SEC members.

General

  • Conference: SEC
  • Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Head Coach: Cuonzo Martin (since 2011)
  • NCAA Appearances: 19
  • Most recent NCAA appearance: 2011
  • Most recent NCAA win: 2010
  • Founded: 1794
  • Students: 19,838
  • Record last season: 19-13 (10-7)
  • SB Nation community: Rocky Top Talk

Source: Basketball State

About Tennessee

Tennessee is a land-grant university like Kentucky, and the flagship university of the State of Tennessee. They are the only university in the nation to have three presidential papers editing projects holding collection of all three U.S. Presidents from Tennessee — Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. Tennessee is one of the oldest public universities in the United States.

From a basketball standpoint, Tennessee is one of the most successful teams in the SEC, but has never made a Final Four, let alone an NCAA Tournament championship game. The Vols have made the Sweet Sixteen six times, and the Elite Eight only once, in 2010.

Season so far:

Tennessee has had an up and down season so far. They have had some quality wins against teams such as Xavier, Virgina, and LSU, but also some bad losses against teams Like UTEP, Texas A&M, and North Carolina St.

Tennessee is at the beginning of a very challenging stretch in the SEC — at Kentucky tomorrow, versus Arkansas next Wednesday, at Florida next Saturday before meeting Ole Miss in Knoxville on Wednesday week. This stretch will likely prove critical to their NCAA hopes, and they probably need at least 2 victories over the aforementioned to keep their hopes in good shape.

History

The Kentucky-Tennessee series spans 216 games and 103 years and counting, the longest-running series in the SEC. Kentucky won it's 1000th game against the Volunteers on January 18th, 1969 by 3 points in Knoxville, 69-66, which saw action by such UK legends as Dan Issell, Mike Casey, and Mike Pratt, as well as Volunteer legend Bill Justus.

This year will be the first year since 1952-53, when Kentucky was banned from SEC play over an alleged point-shaving scandal, that Kentucky and Tennessee have not played a home-home series. Tennessee has also, to date, beaten Kentucky in basketball more than any other SEC team, although the series is still lopsided in Kentucky's favor, 149-67.

Sources: BigBlueHistory.net, Wikipedia.

Tennessee roster

No. Name Status Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl. Exp. Hometown/High School/Last School
34 Jeronne Maymon S** F 6-8 260 RS SR 2L Madison, Wis./Madison Memorial HS/Marquette
5 Jarnell Stokes S** F 6-8 260 JR 2L Memphis, Tenn./Southwind HS
2 Antonio Barton S G 6-2 180 SR Tr. Baltimore, Md./Notre Dame Prep (Mass.)/University of Memphis
52 Jordan McRae S** G 6-6 185 SR 3L Midway, Ga./Liberty County HS
1 Josh Richardson S** G 6-6 196 JR 2L Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe HS
21 A.J. Davis MR G/F 6-9 212 FR HS Buford, Ga./Buford HS
23 Derek Reese MR* G 6-8 220 SO Sq. Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS
15 Darius Thompson MR G 6-5 181 FR HS Murfreesboro, Tenn./Blackman HS
25 Galen Campbell R* G 6-2 190 SO Sq. Knoxville, Tenn./Fulton HS
31 Quinton Chievous R* G 6-6 214 RS SO 1L Chicago, Ill./Notre Dame College Prep
32 D'Montre Edwards R* G 6-6 205 SR Sq. Charleston, S.C./West Ashley HS/Brevard (Fla.) CC
24 Brandon Lopez R* G 6-1 180 JR 1L Knoxville, Tenn./Austin-East HS
4 Armani Moore R* G 6-5 215 SO 1L Kennesaw, Ga./Mount Paran Christian School
10 Rawane Ndiaye R C 6-10 275 JR JC Raleigh, N.C./Woodrow Wilson HS/Indian Hills (Iowa) CC
3 Robert Hubbs III MR+ G 6-6 206 FR HS Newbern, Tenn./Dyer County HS










Legend






S Starter






MR Major reserve






R Reserve






* Returning player






** Returning starter






+ Injured-unavailable







Player notes

  • Jeronne Maymon is the best offensive rebounder on either team, but only by a very small margin. Julius Randle is right with him.

  • Antonio Barton, formerly of Memphis, is the Volunteers biggest 3-point threat. Josh Richardson is also very good, but he shoots far fewer.

  • Jordan McRae is, for the second year in a row, the team's leading scorer. He also leads the Vols in assists per game. and steals per game.

  • Jarnell Stokes is the leading rebounder, and why not? At 6' 8" and 260 lbs., he is a huge man-child, an Orc. Beastly? Yes.

Injuries and personnel losses

Tennessee

Freshman guard Robert Hubbs III, a 5-star shooting guard, had a major shoulder injury that cost him this season. He was Cuonzo Martin's most highly-ranked recruit, #23 in the land according to Rivals.com

Kentucky

No known injuries

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Antonio Barton vs. Andrew Harrison — Barton is an extremely talented player, although not by any means as talented as Andrew. He is everything you want in a lead guard — he can pass, is athletic, and can really shoot when left open. But he is notably inferior in most of these areas, at least theoretically, to Andrew. Harrison is bigger, stronger, and arguably more talented. But so far, he hasn't shown his real-life ability matches what it says on paper.

Advantage: Draw

  • Jordan McRae vs. Aaron Harrison — This is a near-perfect matchup based on size, but McRae has all the advantage when it comes to experience as a senior. McRae, at this point in his career, is more skilled and just as athletic as Aaron Harrison. If Aaron plays up to is ability, it is a close match. If not, it is all McRae.

Advantage: Tennessee

  • Josh Richardson vs. James Young — Richardson has size and length and a game very similar to the guy who will be guarding him. What's different is that Richardson is more experienced, but probably less skilled overall than Young. This is a closer matchup than Kentucky would like, but they still have an advantage.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Jarnell Stokes vs. Julius Randle — This looks a lot closer on paper than it really is. Jarnell Stokes is a very talented player, a big, thick, strong body, and the kind of intelligent power player every team wants to have. With all that said, Julius Randle has all that, and a little bit more — where Stokes is ponderous, Randle is nimble. Where Stokes is nonathletic, Randle is quick. The one advantage Stokes has is a year of SEC basketball under his belt. That can't be minimized, but it isn't enough.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Jeronne Maymon vs. Willie Cauley-Stein — This is a very tough matchup to gage because they are so different. WCS is much taller, much longer and significantly more athletic. Maymon is heavier, thicker, and much more experienced. If we go by NBA résumés, WCS is the clear winner. If we go by the guy who gets his hands dirty and finds ways to overcome his injury and physical limitations, Maymon is your guy. Defensively, WCS is a clear favorite. Rebound-wise, it's Maymon all the way. Too tough for me.

Advantage: Draw

Bench

Honestly, this is easy. Tennessee, because of the loss of Hubbs III, has a thin, unimpressive bench. Kentucky brings 3 McDonalds All-Americans off the bench. No contest.

Advantage: Kentucky

Team comparison

Rank and Records TENN UK
RPI #54 #16
Strength of Schedule #30 #6
Overall 11-5 12-4
Conference 2-1 2-1
Home 8-2 10-0
Away 1-2 1-2
Top 25 0-1 1-2
RPI Top 50 2-2 2-2

Courtesy of Statsheet.com

Four Factors

Kentucky leads in every factor but one — turnovers. But notice, they have a remarkably narrow advantage in both shooting and offensive rebounding. Tennessee is one of the very few teams in all the land that, on paper, can challenge Kentucky in offensive rebounding.

Game analysis

I have to say, this shapes up to be a really beautiful game of college basketball — or a really, really ugly one. It all depends upon how much contact the officials will allow. These are two teams with large, burly men in the middle, and long, athletic guards in the back court. It's a matchup of two very similar teams in some ways, but they couldn't be more different in terms of experience.

Look for the early part of the game to be very even, probably the entire first half. Kentucky's youth will, as it usually does, manifest itself in an early Tennessee lead. But don't let that alarm you — Tennessee is simply not good enough in the long run to beat Kentucky at home. In Knoxville, maybe. But in Lexington? Not likely.

The difference will be that Kentucky has more big bodies to throw at Tennessee than they will be able to defend. I would not be shocked if both big men from the Volunteer State foul out of the ball game eventually, because as thick as they are, they either lack height or the athleticism necessary to keep Kentucky from getting the ball into scoring position. They will fight hard, and have some success, but eventually they will fail.

Guard-wise, this game is much closer, but Kentucky is just a little bit more talented, enough to overcome Tennessee's experience. It will be really hard for Tennessee to rebound with Kentucky in the second half, and as the foul problems inevitably mount, Kentucky's size will take a toll.

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