It’s not often you’ll get the opportunity to see a Kentucky fan writing a look-ahead to a Tennessee game, but what the hell else could you expect from your favorite website? No, not the Realm (link not approved), it’s APIAS.net. Did the Cats drop a stinkbomb in Oxford last night? Yes. Was it kind of expected if you thought about it? Yes. Are they still leading the SEC? Yes. Good, let’s move on.
UT hosts the LSU Tigers this evening in Thompson-Boiling Boling Arena. The Tigers come in winning three straight in the SEC (although they did get beat on Saturday by Xavier), beating those opponents by 24+ points a game. New coach, Trent Johnson, has finally figured out what John Brady had a tough time doing: coaching basketball games. Looking at Johnson’s recent quotes, it wasn’t hard to figure out the problem.
“Marcus is explosive and Tasmin is playing good basketball,” Johnson said. “Bo (Spencer) and Garrett (Temple) are good perimeter players. With Chris Johnson and Alex Farrer, we have a total of six guys who can really pass and catch.”
Hell, maybe if Brady had been able to get guys to catch the basketball, he wouldn’t have gotten canned. In more seriousness, Johnson has gotten this group to play well. Marcus Thornton, Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer all average over 11PPG. Tasmin Mitchell, as you may recall, has been playing as LSU for 12 years.
Tennessee will try to bounce back from a terrible shooting performance against in-state rival Memphis. The Vols shot 32.7% from the field, and 60.9% from the FT line. Those kinds of numbers don’t usually keep you in games, but the UT managed to keep in close and had a couple looks at the end of the game to win or tie. The biggest problem for the Vols was their freshman class. Four freshmen played, none made a field goal and they totaled four points. Yikes.
As always, we’re here to give you the four (4… FOUR!!) keys to the game. Follow along…
Fatigue. LSU does not use their bench very much. Five players play at least 30 minutes a game. Tennessee, on the other hand, will sub like they are playing on ice. Bruce Pearl is certainly smarter than this guy, so he will throw waves and waves of players at the Tigers all night long. Trent Johnson will not want to play as many guys, especially from his no-so-talented bench. Getting LSU’s “Big 3” tired could make for a long evening if you like people who wear purple when they play sports (which is weird, by the way).
Brian “Big Beezy” Williams. How could the best player in college basketball not be a key to the game? His stats (5.6PPG, 6.5RPG) don’t tell the whole story by any stretch. He is the perfect 5-man for Pearl’s system. He’s enormous in the front of the press, it’s almost impossible for opposing teams to get the ball in when he is guarding them. He’s also a hell of a passer, especially after getting a defensive rebound. Williams gets his outlet passes quicker than anyone I’ve seen in college basketball. He also has really soft touch around the rim. Maybe it’s because he didn’t start playing hoops until later on, but he has a higher basketball IQ than most. In short, I love Big Beezy.
AFF-letes. Yeah, there are going to be some damn athletes on the court tonight. If you like 6’7 guys who can attack the rim at will, you will probably want to tune in. Tennessee gives us Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism, Scotty Hopson and JP Prince whose combined wingspan is as long as the court. LSU will roll out your typical Tyrus Thomas or Anthony Randolph look-alike, 6’9 with a 40″ vertical. Watch out! LSU also has eight homegrown boys from Louisiana. When you’re born in Louisiana, you automatically get a foot added on to your vertical.
The Don of Iraq.