The Tennessee basketball program finished up their four game home stretch last week without a hiccup, after being forced to cancel numerous games due to Covid. The Vols are now 6-0 on the season and are set to face #12 Missouri on Wednesday night in Columbia.
Rick Barnes met with the media on Monday to preview the upcoming game against the Missouri Tigers, who have rocketed up the polls over the past few weeks.
The new AP poll was released on Monday afternoon and the Vols are now ranked #7 in the country.
The Tigers have put up some impressive wins over the past few weeks, with victories over #21 Oregon and #15 Illinois.
When asked about Missouri, Rick Barnes spoke about the Tigers defense and ability to get out in transition.
“They’re really good defensively, they’re a heavy gap team that does a great job of swarming in and wanting to break the ball loose and get out in transition. They’re playing at a much faster pace than they have probably since we’ve gone up against them with Cuonzo being there with them. So they’re different, but I think they’re a very well-coached team on both sides, I think they both know exactly how they want to play and who they want to play through. They know who they are, and they play to that.”
Tennessee has wins over Colorado and Cincinnati during this six game stretch, with back to back games scoring over 100 points.
Rick Barnes spoke about the Vols hitting the road for the first time this season, noting not much will change, besides hopping on a flight and doing their normal game day routine.
“It’s something I don’t think is ideal, which is why it was hard when we lost the game at Notre Dame and those neutral site games that would be different. This is not the way it usually is, it’s an unusual year as we all know. I’m sure it’s happened to some other teams, I don’t know because I haven’t looked around at everybody’s schedule nationally. It’s not the ideal thing we would have liked to had with the way our preseason went, but with that said, it is here and we have to be ready to go play against a very good Missouri basketball team.”
Tennessee has been locked in on the defensive end this season, but at times they’ve needed more consistency out of their rotation, especially coming out of television breaks. Rick Barnes continues to work through who he wants on the court in the final four minutes, using a few different sets over the past few games. It’s not hard to notice Barnes is looking for his final five.
“The key would be the C-word. Consistency. That’s with everyone. I don’t think we’ve had one guy that’s been absolutely consistent. I would say our most consistent player has been Josiah (Jordan James). Overall, him and Santi(ago Vescovi) are two guys who have been fairly consistent, but the other guys haven’t been as consistent as I know they have to be and what I think they will become. We also need to continue to take care of the ball at a high rate percentage wise and rebound the ball. If we do that—and try to keep playing good, solid defense.”
This will be a huge test for the Vols, not just because it’s the first SEC game of the season. This will be the first time Tennessee could be challenged at some skill positions. We know how Cuonzo Martin likes to play basketball, so the Vols will have to get the Tigers out of their comfort zone.
The way this Tennessee team has been playing defense, this is lining up to be a game won in the paint, where the Vols have found success in this early season.
All Images Courtesy Of Tennessee Athletic Communications