Saturday afternoon, the Memphis Tigers roll into Thompson-Boling Arena understandably still irked at the Vols. Around this time last year, Bruce’s boys from the East gave Memphis its first (and one of only 2 total) loss last year.
Calipari ranted and raved all off season about Bruce and his recruiting of Memphis, going so far as to say that Bruce not bother sniffing around the city, because anybody John wants, John gets.
Leslie McDonald then immediately signed with UNC.
This year, he still hasn’t cooled off much.
John Calipari was asked this week to describe his relationship with Tennessee men’s basketball Coach Bruce Pearl.
“We coach in the same state,” Calipari deadpanned.
He quickly noted it was said mostly in jest — key word: Mostly.
Pearl, to his credit, keeps stoking the fire, “My thing with John has always been his contention that this series does more for Tennessee than it does for Memphis. I try to remind him from time to time that Tennessee does hold the all-time advantage (12-7) in the series and that it’s good for both teams.”
So what are we looking at on Saturday, other than another bruiser of a budding rivalry matchup? Let’s take a look at the 4 keys after the jump.
The Vols and Tigers only share 2 common opponents thus far. Chattanooga, where the Vols won 114-75 and the Tigers won 83-71… and Georgetown which defeated Memphis 79-70, and that the Vols beat 90-72. The keys to this one are below.
Prince or Pauper? JP noted Tuesday night, after a solid performance in Vandy’s joke of a gym, that he’s feeling as good now as he has in his last 2 injury-riddled years. Let’s not forget, also, that JP was a huge reason the Vols were able to knock of Memphis last year, in Memphis, with 13 points, 8 boards, and a “where-the-hell-did-that-come-from” 3-4 at the freethrow line down the stretch for the career 52% FT shooter. The Vols need Prince to stay healthy, active on defense, and hitting everything he shoots inside 6 feet.
The Names. The Vols have allowed 6 opposing guards to notch career- or season-highs this year. The perimeter D was better on Tuesday, but this Memphis team has a higher quality product at the 1’s and 2’s. The challenge here is for Insurance Salesmen/your buddy’s little brothers Bobby, Josh, and Scotty to keep the ball away from 7th Floor Crew lifers Doneal and Tyreke.
Free Throws. Neither team likes ’em. Both teams will need ’em. Tennessee is a streaky feast-or-famine .698 on the year. Memphis is a consistent .653 employing starting guard Doneal Mack at a cool 58%. There were 35 free tosses to be had in last years matchup. Only 20 were accounted for. The final was 66-62. It doesn’t take an Edaystatistician to learn that lesson.