For the 3rd season in a row, the Tennessee Volunteers are in the SEC Semifinals, this time facing Alabama.
Tip-off is at 1 pm and the game will be televised on ESPN.
This is the first time since 2008, 2009, and 2010 the Vols have made it to 3 straight SEC Semifinals.
The Vols are coming off an impressive 78-66 win over the Florida Gators.
Guard Santiago Vescovi led the Vols in scoring, dropping 14 points in the win over the Gators.
5 players on the Vols scored in double digits in Friday’s win (Pons, Vescovi, Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer, Josiah Jordan-James).
Yves Pons had one of his best performances in his Tennessee career, grabbing 8 rebounds and a school-record 9 blocks.
Alabama is the regular-season SEC champs and is coming off an 85-48 win over Mississippi State.
Guard Jahvon Quinerly led the Tide in scoring with 14 points.
The Crimson Tide also held Mississippi State to just 19 points in the first half.
While the Vols had a good win over the Gators, it did come with a price.
Senior John Fulkerson was taken out of the game when Gator Forward Omar Payne gave him an elbow to the face.
Rick Barnes doesn’t expect Fulkerson to be available for today’s game as well.
In order for the Vols to get revenge on the Tide and pull off the upset, here is what the Vols must do to beat Alabama:
Good Offensive Play :
Friday’s win was one of the best offensive performances the Vols have had in weeks, but the Vols need to continue that trend.
78 points were the most points Tennessee has scored since the Vols win over South Carolina back in mid-February.
Despite the Vols dropping 78 points, they still only shot 9-25 from the three-point line.
Alabama is a team that loves to shoot the three-ball and in order for the Vols to keep up and have a shot, they have to do a better job shooting the 3.
Guards got to a better job on shooting the three-ball.
Outside of Vescovi, the guards struggled from the 3 point line.
Springer, Johnson, and Bailey Jr combined for 1-10 from the 3 point line.
If the Vols want to have a shot at beating the Tide, Bailey Jr, Johnson, and Springer must be able to get back in form and make some key shots.
Contain Alabama’s Guards:
The last time the Vols faced Alabama, Alabama torched them with the three-ball.
Bama shot 50% from the 3 point line the last time the two teams faced each other.
Vols have to do a better job on containing Alabama’s guards and not give them wide-open looks.
The three guards Tennessee must stop from getting hot is Joshua Primo, Jaden Shackelford, and John Petty Jr.
These three guards killed the Vols’ chances of winning, combing 8-11 from the three-point line.
Shackelford is the Tide’s best guard and leading scorer, averaging 14.4 points a game.
Bailey Jr and Vescovi must improve their defensive play from yesterday if they want to have a chance today.
If the Vols can contain this triple threat to under 40 points, Tennessee will have a great chance to make it to their 3rd consecutive conference final.
Have An Inside Game:
Arguably the most important thing that needs to happen in order for the Vols to win is that they must have an inside game.
One of the things that killed the Vols in their game against Alabama back in January is the lack of presence they had from their forwards.
The Vols 5 forwards that played (Fulkerson, Pons, Pember, Anosike, Nkamhoua) combined just for 20 points in their loss to the Tide.
Vols forwards in their win against the Gators on Friday (Pons, Plavsic, Fulkerson) combined for 21 points as well.
It hurts that the Vols will be missing John Fulkerson who’s been playing good ball in the last two games.
But this means that Pons and other forwards like Plavsic, Anosike, Nkamhoua are going to need to step up their play.
If the Vols’ forwards can make their presence felt and take the load off the guards, Tennessee will get their revenge on the Tide and make their 3rd consecutive SEC Tournament Final.