The Cincinnati Bearcats travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers today. Tennessee returns most of their team from last season with the addition of the #5 recruiting class in the nation. Plus, this team will be looking to avenge the 78-66 loss to the bearcats last season at Fifth-Third Arena.
The Vols have only played on game this season which was a 56-47 win over Colorado. Although they only shot 35.8% from the field, they still managed 36.8% from three. Tennessee’s strengths lie on the defensive end of the floor as they forced 23 turnovers against Colorado and held them to 33% from the floor.
John Fulkerson was one of the two leading scorers for Tennessee last year and kept the trend going leading his team with 11 points against Colorado. Chris Vogt must stay disciplined when defensing an offensive threat like Fulkerson or her could foul out for the third straight game. Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, and Victor Bailey are the trio of UT guards that shot over 36% from three last season. Mika Adams-Woods, David DeJulius, and Keith Williams will have their work cut out for them defending that perimeter since they are also capable of getting to the basket and finishing through contact. Expect more of John Brannen’s 1-3-1 half-court zone to make Tennessee prove they can beat the Bearcats from the outside.
The Vols usually play 4 guard lineups which could spell danger for the Bearcats and their defensive liabilities revolving around their big men getting left on an island when switching onto a guard. If Chris Vogt and Rapolas Ivanauskas can only play limited minutes due to matchup problems, this could diminish Cincinnati’s effectiveness on the offensive end. We may see some lineups with Jeremiah Davenport at the 4 and Tari Eason at the 5.
While I like that Cincinnati has played three games to Tennessee’s one, I think Tennessee’s talent outweighs this particular advantage. I don’t expect UC to win, but this provides another growth opportunity for Brannen’s young team.