Tennessee is riding high after their great win against Arizona; however, it is time to get back into schedule as they start their SEC season against #19 Alabama on Wednesday night.
It is arguably one of the most challenging games of the season; Tennessee looks to get revenge on the Crimson Tide after falling short against them twice last season.
Even though it is the first game of the conference season, it is one of the biggest games for the Vols.
Not just for the possibility of a conference title but future seeding for the NCAA Tournament.
Rick Barnes’s squad will need another good performance Wednesday night to come out with the win.
Here are four players the Vols need to show up against Alabama:
What we witnessed from John Fulkerson last Wednesday against Arizona is one of the best performances he has ever had at Tennessee.
Tennessee needed one of the big men to take over, and Fulkerson did just that.
Fulkerson’s performance reminded many of the old Fulky that dominated in the 2019-2020 season.
Fulkerson’s 24 points and ten rebounds performance against the Wildcats was a major reason why the Vols were able to get the big win.
Tennessee will need that again from the kid from Kingsport.
While Fulkerson did look like himself, he still struggled in the paint the last couple of seasons.
If he can manage to get those tough 4–5-foot baskets and continue to draw in fouls on Wednesday night to relieve some of the pressure off the guards, Tennessee will have a great shot against the Crimson Tide.
Kennedy Chandler has shown us plenty of reasons he is a future 1st round draft.
He does a great job with handling the basketball, does a great job with running the offense, and can score from just about anywhere.
However, despite leading the team in scoring 14 points a game, he struggles with consistency.
In our five toughest games this season (Arizona, Texas Tech, Colorado, UNC, Villanova), Chandler has averaged 12.8 points a game.
That isn’t bad, but that is primarily because of his 27-point performance against Colorado.
In those same five games, he averaged 33.48% from the field.
Again, that isn’t terrible, but if it weren’t for shooting 65% against Colorado, his average would drop to 25.6%.
Luckily for Chandler, Alabama isn’t very good defensively, ranking at 284 out of 350 in scoring defense.
This is a great opportunity for Chandler to have another monumental performance once again.
If Chandler can take advantage of Alabama’s poor scoring defense, Vols will win with ease.
Triple J has easily been one of our best defensive players of the season so far, ranking 3rd in rebounds with 5.9
Unfortunately, that can’t be said on the offensive side of the ball.
This season, Jordan-James averages just 6.6 points and only shoots 30% from the field.
The Junior from Charleston, South Carolina, had quickly the best performance of this season against Arizona, scoring 12, 5 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, including a crucial one with less than a minute to go.
Tennessee can already count on Triple J putting on a great performance defensively, but they will need him to show up again on offense.
Jordan-James will need to make the open shots he will get Wednesday night and become a liable option if the Vols want to grab a win out of Tuscaloosa.
Olivier Nkamhoua has been one of the most frustrating players to watch this season.
Nkamhoua ranks 4th on the team in scoring with 8.9 points a game and has shown improvement and flashes of being a great player, scoring in double digits four times this season.
However, he seems to disappear when facing better opponents, averaging just 2.8 points against our five toughest opponents (Arizona, Texas Tech, Colorado, UNC, Villanova).
Nkamhoua can be a good and liable big man for the Vols, but the clock is ticking for the Finnish Forward.
If Nkamhoua can somehow find a way to make a presence on Wednesday night and relieve some of that pressure off of John Fulkerson and the guards, Tennessee will win with ease.
But if he no-shows again and Tennessee has to rely on the three ball, it could potentially be a long night for Rick Barnes and the Vols.