As we are near the end of the regular season, the #25 Tennessee Volunteers take on the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.
The game is at Auburn Arena and is a noon tip-off on ESPN.
Tennessee is coming off a tough 70-58 win over Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Victor Bailey Jr led the team in points with 21, Jaden Springer had 20.
Vols now have a 16-6 overall record and a 9-6 record in the SEC, which is the 4th best record in the conference.
Bruce Pearl’s Auburn team is coming off a 74-57 loss to Florida.
Auburn has been struggling in the last few weeks, losing 6 of their last 7 games.
Auburn currently sits with an 11-13 overall record and a 5-10 record in the SEC, which is the 11th best in the conference.
Auburn’s best player and star guard Sharife Cooper currently has an ankle injury and is doubtful for Saturday.
However despite their recent struggles, Auburn currently has a 5 game winning streak against the Vols.
For Rick Barnes to turn it around against Bruce Pearl and end the 5 game losing streak, this is what the Vols must do to beat Auburn:
Start With the 4 Guard lineup:
I think this one is a bit obvious but Tennessee must have a 4 guard starting lineup.
Some of the best basketball this team has played this season was when they had Josiah Jordan-James play at the 4 and have four guards on the floor.
Moving Pons to the 5 gives Tennessee more of an up-tempo pace to their offense, which is something they lack when they have John Fulkerson on the court.
Tennessee still doesn’t have a true identity on offense, but the guards can open up space and use their speed and athleticism when Pons is playing the 5 position.
This isn’t a knock at John Fulkerson, but he should not be in the starting lineup considering the fact he has scored 4 points in 4 of the last 5 games.
Maybe he can get his groove back by coming off the bench.
But if the Vols want to beat Auburn, Rick Barnes should stick with the 4 guard lineup in the starting five.
Quit Shooting The Mid-Range Jumper:
I have never seen a team that shoots as many mid-range jumpers as this Tennessee team does.
It is ridiculous how many mid-range jumpers we shoot a game.
36% of Tennessee’s shots are 2 point jumpers according to hoop-math.com
the long two-point jumper is one of the worst shots in basketball.
It is an incredibly difficult shot for just a little reward, in this case, 2 points.
Only 33.5% of our shots are 3 point shots.
47.6% of Alabama’s shots are 3 point shots.
45.8% of Auburn’s shots are 3 point shots.
What I am saying is that the Vols are ride and die with the mid-range jumper and they need to change that.
Tennessee must cut out these 5-20 foot mid-range jumpers and shoot the three-ball more.
Even if it means we miss more from the 3, you have a better chance to win if you continue to shoot the 3-ball or at the rim as oppose to continuously shoot the mid-range jumper.
Feed Victor Bailey Jr:
Wanna know who has been the Vols’ leading scorer for the last 3 games?
Did you guess Jaden Springer? Keon Johnson?
Nope, it is neither of them.
It’s Victor Bailey Jr.
The Oregon transfer is playing some of his best basketball right now.
In the last 3 games, Bailey Jr is averaging is 22.6 points (21 @ Vanderbilt, 18 vs Kentucky, 29 vs South Carolina).
Bailey Jr has been impressive from the 3-point as well during this stretch, averaging 60.8% from the three-point line.
He is playing his best ball in a time where is needed more than ever.
Springer, Vescovi, and Johnson need to continue to feed Bailey Jr and let him shoot that 3-ball.
If they let Bailey Jr get 7-8 looks, Tennessee could cruise their way to a victory this Saturday.
Grab Those Boards:
Tennessee must do a good job of rebounding the basketball on Saturday.
Auburn loves shooting the 3-ball, as I said earlier 45.8% of Auburn’s shots are 3 balls.
That means Tennessee has to be ready to go up and get those rebounds.
Auburn has grabbed 306 offensive rebounds this season.
That is the 8th most in College Basketball.
They also average 12.8 offensive rebounds a game, which is the 21st highest average.
Josiah Jordan-James is the best rebounder on this team, averaging 6 rebounds a game.
Yves Pons is another great rebounder on this team who averages 5 boards a game.
If both Josiah and Pons can box out, grab 6-8 rebounds each, and limit Auburn’s offensive rebounds to 5-6, Tennessee will come out of Auburn Arena with a win.