Show Me My Opponent: Alabama State


Avoid traffic, arrive on time

Obviously, Tennessee’s going to be a massive favorite. KenPom projects this at around a 26-point spread. Considering Alabama State lost to Gonzaga by 31 and Houston by 28, I’d call that a fair line. Barring a real meltdown on both sides of the ball, I can’t imagine this one being close, and Tennessee really should be able to win this with ease.

Continue finding rotations you like on offense, work within the system to smooth out rough edges

Offensively, this game represents a great chance to work out some of the kinks they’ve experienced so far. Tennessee hasn’t done a great job of keeping the ball in their own hands this season, and Alabama State has years of experience in at least being okay at provoking turnovers. If Tennessee can keep possessions relatively short, go to the basket with frequency, and force Alabama State to commit the many fouls I know they can, it’ll be quick work.

Tennessee should take advantage of Alabama State’s interior defensive issues and their struggles guarding threes. It would be wise to go inside early and often:

And it would be wise to take any of the wide-open threes you get:

That’s how you make quick work of a very much overmatched opponent.

Also, as mentioned, Tennessee should be able to continue dominating the boards in this game. Alabama State allowed OREBs% of 36.7% and 39.4% to Gonzaga and Houston, and I’d bet Tennessee should hit something similar. They’ll get plenty of second chances in this game, and I’d be fine with either immediately putting it back up or sending it back out to re-run the offense for a perimeter look.

Work on staying with shooters; don’t get discouraged if they hit a few

Tennessee’s mostly been fine at this so far, minus the first-half explosion from three by Murray State. I wasn’t really horrified by Tennessee’s defense in that game; simply put, Murray wasn’t going to hit at the rates they hit at forever. Against Washington, the Huskies were overmatched from deep from the get-go, getting up only four unguarded three-point attempts, per Synergy. If that means you give up a shot like this:

It’s fine, because you later gave up similar looks like these that didn’t go in:

Both were guarded attempts, per Synergy; both are fine defensive plays. Sometimes they go in. Big whoop. This game obviously won’t present the same challenge, and Tennessee simply needs to continue guarding the perimeter well.

Force the dumb stuff: mid-range ISOs and turnovers

Alabama State really enjoys missing mid-range shots, so Tennessee could do with forcing their share. They’ll have to do this later on, so might as well keep it going here:

Alabama State’s had a lot of self-inflicted turnovers this season, but Tennessee needs to show they can force an opponent into mistakes, too. Last year’s team seemed content at times to wait for an opponent to screw up; this year’s group likely doesn’t have the same luxury.

The Hornets run more ISO than nearly any other team Tennessee will play; the defender on these plays has to be ready to force an attempt the other player is less than overjoyed with. Also, gotta stay strong on interior defense. I didn’t feel like creating a section just for this, but it had to be GIF’d.

French Zion, dudes.

NEXT PAGE: Lineup notes, key matchups, pickz

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