When you carry the number three next to your name, it’s easy for the enjoyable to get a little too normal. You nitpick, you look ahead, etc.
Tennessee was favored by 15 (via KenPom) over Georgia today in the SEC opener, a team Rick Barnes had beaten once – barely, to win the SEC last year – in his tenure in Knoxville. The Dawgs play a bunch of guys and are still trying to figure it out in Tom Crean’s first year, but had won five of six, including a near-miss with Arizona State and an 11-point win at Georgia Tech. There’s no such thing as a bad win in college basketball, especially to open league play. Getting the W is still at the top of the list, but the Vols are also still trying to stay in the chase for number one, in the polls and the bracket. That’s the standard you get to get judged by in the top five.
Today, Tennessee was incredible by any standard. And we should take the opportunity to appreciate it as much as possible.
A 46-point win is one shy of the program record in an SEC game. It’s the fifth 40+ point win in league play for the Vols, but the first since 1979. Georgia’s Derek Ogbeide, in foul trouble immediately, still finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting with six rebounds. The rest of the team? 11-of-44 (25%), 33 points. Georgia was 1-for-20 from the arc.
Tennessee? Eighteen each from PB&J, 20 from Jordan Bowden off the bench, and a 12-14 from Kyle Alexander. The Vols shot just 6-of-18 from the arc and won by 46, thanks to a lethal 28-of-46 (61%) inside the arc, 22-of-26 at the line, +15 in rebounds and a 25-9 assist-turnover ratio. This was a 40-minute (or like 39.5 minute as the Vols held the ball with a chance to get that record) beat down in every way.
The Vols also got Lamonte Turner back, who went 0-for-3 from the arc but still scored six points. His presence and the blowout allowed the Vols to keep everyone under 30 minutes.
In KenPom, the Vols moved from 11th to eighth. Their current rating there – +24.72 (margin of victory vs the average team in 100 possessions) – is now the best in program history. We could find ourselves saying that a lot more often this year. But first…
It’s a trap!
As Rob Lewis pointed out on VolQuest a few days ago, Missouri is next, and the Tigers will be well-rested. Cuonzo’s squad hasn’t played since December 29, and didn’t open SEC play today because they’re not in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge (neither is Auburn or Mississippi State, a big fail by whoever puts these together). So the Tigers will have ten days of preparation for the Vols, who get the short turnaround for a 7:00 PM Tuesday night tip in CoMo. It’s the first of two between the Vols and Tigers; Mizzou won last year 59-55.
Tennessee is only favored by six over the Tigers in KenPom. They won’t all be 46-point wins. But in the midst of what could be a special season, this was a special chapter. We haven’t seen this level of dominance in my lifetime in conference play. That qualifies as a good start.