Literal big news:
A strange season takes another turn: the Vols started the year with 11 games of Lamonte Turner, and will end it, if healthy, with at least 17 games of Uros Plavsic. Turner’s absence and Tennessee’s 1-4 stretch surrounding it made it difficult for the Washington and VCU wins with Turner to be worth as much on the bubble. But now, if the Vols can get hot while working in Plavsic the same way they’ve done Santiago Vescovi, Tennessee can build a separate argument for what they’ve done with these two additions.
That starts at Georgia tonight, where the Vols will face potential number one overall pick Anthony Edwards. Tennessee saw Shaquille O’Neal at LSU in the early 90’s – shout out to Carlus Groves – then didn’t play a number one pick for the next 15 years. That’s changed drastically since then, thanks in large part to John Calipari:
|2007||Greg Oden||Ohio State|
The Vols beat Ben Simmons in the regular season but lost the rematch in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee also beat John Wall in Knoxville in 2010 and, of course, got the best of Derrick Rose and Memphis in 2008.
The 6’5″ Edwards made a name for himself by scoring 37 points against Michigan State, including 7-of-16 from the arc. He’s taken no more than nine threes in any other game, including the last two when cold spells helped the Dawgs get off to an 0-2 start in league play, thanks in large part to the schedule. Kentucky won in Athens 78-69, and Auburn held serve at home with a dominant 82-60 win. Edwards had 23 points on 17 shots against Kentucky, 18 on 17 against Auburn. He’ll put it up: via KenPom, Edwards is 18th nationally in shot percentage, taking more than a third of Georgia’s shots when he’s on the floor.
Edwards is only a 30.5% three-point shooter; when Kentucky and Auburn chased him off the line, he did go 9-of-14 inside the arc. He gets to the free throw line with 72 attempts on the year (4.8 per game), but only shoots 68.1% once there. Did someone mention a seven foot rim protector with five more fouls to give?
Edwards also shares the ball well, relatively speaking, but when it goes in for Georgia from another player it’s usually Rayshaun Hammonds. The 6’9″ junior plays the five, which means right away we get to talk about Uros giving Tennessee an advantage we haven’t seen all season. After the Vols found great success against Missouri playing Yves Pons at the five, I’ll be curious to see if they carve out some time for that lineup as well.
I don’t think last season’s 96-50 win in Knoxville is much of a talking point here. Georgia finished the season 11-21 (2-16), but is already way better in Tom Crean’s second season, and not solely on the strength of Edwards. They’re tested, having played Dayton and Michigan State well before opening league play with Kentucky and Auburn. And they went to Memphis and won 65-62 on January 4, and not because Edwards had a huge game (4-of-17 shooting). They held Memphis to 38.5% from the floor and took advantage of the Tigers shooting 11-of-20 at the stripe.
Memphis did pinpoint one of their biggest weaknesses: giving up offensive rebounds, where the Dawgs are 276th nationally and undersized like us on Monday. Memphis had 15 offensive rebounds against them; Auburn had 13 and Kentucky a dozen. Georgia also does themselves no favors at the free throw line or in turning the ball over.
Any team with the number one pick is dangerous; the Vols got a spark from Vescovi, and Plavsic has been practicing with the team all season, but we’re not sure exactly what we’re going to get here and that could lead to the kind of weirdness that costs us tonight. If Tennessee is truly going to build a resume on what they do from here, with Vescovi and Plavsic, it’s a nice on-ramp: at Georgia, at Vanderbilt, vs Ole Miss before we go to Kansas. If you want that argument, it needs to start with a win tonight.
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