It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: Vandy Preview 2/8/23

Last time out: Tennessee beat Auburn Saturday in what some people have described as a "basketball game". Meanwhile Vandy got a three-point win against Ole Miss on Saturday in Nashville. 

Previously on Vols vs. 'Dores: Tennessee picked up a nine-point victory over Vanderbilt on January 10 in Knoxville. it was the 11th straight win in the series for UT; a win against Vandy on Wednesday would give Tennessee the longest winning streak for either school in the history of the series.

What to watch for: This shouldn't be surprising, but this Vanderbilt team is pretty bad at basketball. They rank in the bottom third of all teams nationally in several statistical categories. The things they rank highly in are things like FG attempted and 3s attempted--so they're good at taking shots, just not so much at making them. They grab a lot of offensive rebounds (probably long rebounds because they shoot so many 3s) and they do block a lot of shots, too. 

Senior journeyman Liam Robbins is Vanderbilt's biggest threat. the seven-footer leads the SEC in player efficiency and block percentage and is among the leaders in box plus/minus--which is just a fancy way of saying he's important to whatever success the 'Dores expect to have. He's a Big Guy who's good at doing Big Guy stuff, so he's got to be kept in check. Vandy's other biggest threat is 6'7" forward Miles Stute, one of the SEC's leading three-point shooters. 

However, the bigger threat Vandy poses is two-fold, and has less to do with their personnel per se. First, the game is in that abomination of a gym they call Memorial. While Tennessee holds a commanding 125-75 record in this series, the Vols are only 27-42 in Memorial Gym since it opened in 1952. Second, what doesn't show up on the stat line is that Jerry Stackhouse's teams, if nothing else, play hard. 

Prediction: There's so much bad juju here. A scrappy Vandy team with a penchant for shooting threes, in Memorial Gym, against a top-10 Tennessee that has struggled to make shots lately. IF Vandy's threes are falling, and IF Tennessee is cold shooting again, and IF the ghosts of Memorial are out in force, the longest win streak in series history might just fall out of UT's grasp and over the edge of that stupid raised court. However, that's a lot of "ifs", and I have to believe the talent disparity is too strong in Tennessee's favor. Vandy covers, but the Vols win, 63-55


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