Missouri was undefeated with wins over Oregon, Wichita State, and Illinois. They’re ranked 12th in the country.
And Tennessee jumped them 23-4 in the first 8.5 minutes. The Tigers never got within single digits.
Defense: everywhere. Offense: everyone. This is Tennessee.
Missouri shot 36.4% from the floor, 3-of-16 from the arc, and turned it over 21 times. If there was a flaw tonight, it was some combination of Tennessee’s over-aggressiveness and the referees’ response in calling so many fouls. Missouri shot 30 free throws, but missed a dozen of them. And Yves Pons had four soul-crushing blocks.
Offensively, it’s like drawing names out of a hat: 15 from Vescovi, 13 from Pons and Springer, 11 from Fulkerson, 9 from Bailey. The Vols shot 50% from the floor, took just seven threes, and made five of them.
This Tennessee team should move into second place in program history in the KenPom era, passing another Cuonzo Martin squad from 2014. We’ll need more data to figure out if they’re better than the 2019 squad. But every data point with this team, as with that one, is a joy.
It’s one SEC game, but when it’s on the road against the only other ranked team in the league, you’re allowed to dream. And here’s what Tennessee should put out there in front of themselves:
- Win the league outright, for the first time since 2008 and only the third time ever.
- Get a one seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. If Gonzaga and Baylor are playing at a level above everyone else, the only way you guarantee you don’t see them until the Final Four is to earn one of the other one seeds.
Watching this team, these aren’t farfetched ideas.
This was a late tip tonight. But you should watch this team. A lot.
It’s Alabama next, Saturday at 6:00 PM in Knoxville. One down, 17 to go.