Posted: 4:34 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
By Chris Pendley
Wondering where all the points will be scored in Tennessee basketball games on Saturday? Look no further than Knoxville, where Troy brings a bunch of shooters (and absolutely no defense) to the Summitt.
Troy is the third opponent Tennessee's played who isn't receiving a vote in either poll. That's a nice way of saying while Tennessee's schedule has been light on ranked teams, it hasn't been light on good teams.
Troy won't go in either of those buckets, for the record. That woman (look, okay, it's weird, let's just roll with it) named Troy is 4-4 on the season playing a schedule fit only for the Baylors of the world. Their toughest opponent so far? Florida, who beat them by 30. Their weakest opponent, I guess, is Alabama-Huntsville, who they beat by 15. In both of those games, their opponent scored over 100 points.
So yeah, this team can score, and given that the tallest player on the squad is 6'1", they shoot a lot of threes. No, really, they do - 22.1 per game at a clip of 32.5%, which is ...bad. Matter of fact, let's just get this out of the way: Joanna Harden and Brooke Bowie excepted, this team is Meighan Simmons clones. Volume shooters, the lot of them, who like to get out and run and put up the first shot they see. Contested? Whatever. (Harden shoots at a 46% clip and averages 26.6 ppg on 20.3 shots; Bowie averages 11.4 ppg on 8.9 shots, including 6.4 threes per game.)
Seriously, this is insane. As a whole, Troy averages 80+ shots per game (Tennessee's averaged closer to 67 shots per game) and 24.8 FTA per game (Tennessee, again: 21.9 FTA), and Troy has three players who could run into foul trouble to boot in Ashley Beverly-Kelley, Bowie, and Kourtney Coleman. Tennessee has a height advantage, Troy likes to jack a bunch of shots, and a Tennessee team itching to run faces an opponent that can't run efficiently.
This will be fun.
Part of me wonders if the decision in the Texas game to bring Burdick off the bench was to give her different looks - Burdick's been relegated to that nasty midrange game in the starting five out of spacing concerns alone. I wouldn't be against shuffling her minutes around to get her higher quality shots, but if she's going to be rolling with Russell, she needs to be working off different spacing than if she gets to find shots with the Harrison-Burdick duo. (This also applies to Jones, but with less severity; she just needs to provide positive minutes, but her 4.4 shots per game mean less than Burdick's 9.4 shots per game.)
As far as Simmons goes: she's going to take some of those bad shots. As long as it's a small percentage compared to threes and open shots in the lane, it's tolerable. Not ideal, but tolerable.
Prediction: 103-75 Tennessee. Viva le shot opportunities, and lest you think the 75 is a statement against Tennessee's defense, I'm guessing they'll average less than a point a shot. I wouldn't blink at a 40-point margin here, either, but Troy may hit enough threes to stay within a striking distance.
Largest margin where Mickey complains about the refs: 20.
Tip's at 2 PM, so put the men on TV and the Ladies on the radio. (Or put the men on radio and the women on TV, because you actually want to see scoring, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.)