Tennessee managed to get back to .500 in conference play earlier this week, thanks to a huge second half in Nashville. The Vols were down by 10 at the half, but outscored Vanderbilt by 18 in the second half on their home floor. Tennessee only had 35 points at the break, but an offensive explosion in the second half helped them beat Vandy 92-84.
Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield both had career highs Tuesday night. Williams had 37 points, and Schofield had 22 points and 9 rebounds. Both guys will have a tougher time this Saturday against Texas A&M because of their size and physicality.
The Aggies are 11-5 overall, but 4 of those 5 losses are to SEC teams. Even though A&M is 0-4, they started putting the pieces together in their last two games. They lost 74-73 at Rupp Arena Tuesday night, and last Saturday they lost a heartbreaker against LSU, 69-68.
Going in to SEC play, Ken Pomeroy gave Texas A&M a 56% chance to win the SEC regular season title. The odds have nosedived since then, but Pomeroy still has A&M sandwiched between Kentucky and Florida as the 22nd best team in the nation. In case you were wondering, he has Tennessee as number 15.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives Tennessee a 75.7% chance of holding serve at home, but i’m not as confident as the computers. A&M is too good of a team to drop to 0-5 in the SEC, and Tennessee has not played well in the first half in the last few games. If Tennessee has a slow start, look for the Aggies to steal their first conference win in Knoxville.
The good news for Vols fans is that Vol killer Antwan Space is no longer in College Station so we do not have to worry about him ripping our hearts out again. The Aggies do however have plenty of studs that could beat Tennessee.
Tyler Davis and D.J. Hogg are A&M’s leading scorers. Davis is a 6’10” junior center who will give the Vols all they can handle down low. Davis averages 15 points and 8 boards per game, and A&M will look to feed him the ball as much as possible against Tennessee’s under-sized bigs. D.J. Hogg is averaging 14 points per game, and is looking to make some noise on floor after being suspended for the start of conference play.
This is a nice home test for the Vols. They dug themselves out of an 0-2 SEC hole, and now they will try to keep their focus and get over .500 in the SEC. This is the kind of game that separates top-tier teams from the rest of their conference, and the young Vols have to realize that.
If Tennessee is not on their game from the opening tip, they could very easily lose this game by double digits. The good news is the Vols don’t have to think back very far to remember the last time they took a team lightly. Remember the Auburn game last weak? Let’s hope the team does too.
Tip off is set for 5:00 CT Saturday from Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville. You can catch the game on SEC Network.