Show Me My Opponent: Chattanooga

HOW TENNESSEE BEATS IT

hey quick note – I know the GIFs of the Alabama State game look choppy for whatever reason. The copy of the game on my laptop either struggled to capture correctly on the initial broadcast or got corrupted somehow by Synergy. Anyway, that’s why you see the black flashes mid-GIF. All others are fine. I blame SEC Network Plus.

Play your part, play your part

Like most of their warmup games this November, Tennessee won’t need to be near perfect to defeat Chattanooga. The Mocs have had one outing place above a 35 Game Score in Bart Torvik’s ratings, and it was against South Alabama. They were great in that game, but against all other competition, they’ve been somewhere from forgettable to legitimate butt. Barring a white-hot night from three, this shouldn’t be close. So: just like the other warmup games, Tennessee should use this one to develop a rotation and work out some of the remaining flaws.

Offense: look for higher-quality shots, go to the rim a little more often

It would be good to see Tennessee take higher-quality shots and maybe mess with mid-range looks less often. 36.6% of Tennessee’s shots so far are non-rim twos, which, analytically, is the worst shot available. Because this debate comes up every time, yes, you should take open mid-range shots.

No, you shouldn’t take guarded mid-range shots over open threes. Also, you could just take the ball to the rim for a higher-percentage look or draw a foul.

At this point of the Barnes era, I know that Tennessee’s going to take more non-rim twos than I’m comfortable with. That’s fine if they’re taking the right non-rim twos, such as open looks. Just don’t force mediocre shots is what I’m getting at.

Also, I’d like to see Tennessee work their way around the perimeter for more three-point looks. Tennessee will never lead the country in three-pointers attempted, nor should they, but they were unlucky in missing several open threes against Alabama State. Might as well get more practice in.

There really isn’t much to fix defensively, but keep doing what you’re doing

As I’d anticipated in preseason, the defense is at least a step or two ahead of the offense thus far. All four Tennessee regular season opponents have finished below a point per possession (PPP), which is a streak length the Vols hadn’t hit on D since December 22-January 8, 2018/19. (If you include Eastern New Mexico, this moves the streak to five, which Tennessee hasn’t touched since Donnie Tyndall’s lone season.)

It’s hard to say what Tennessee could do better defensively so far, but if anything, both Murray State and Washington gave Tennessee varying amounts of trouble on post-ups.

Obviously, Chattanooga doesn’t have an Isaiah Stewart or Darnell Cowart, but practice is practice.

Also, Tennessee’s done an alright job of forcing turnovers so far, but well over half of them have been self-inflicted mistakes by opponents. I’d much rather see Tennessee get dirty and force some ugly turnovers by Chattanooga:

Plus, this will be a great game for Tennessee to get practice in guarding catch-and-shoot threes. Chattanooga takes a lot of them, and in a game that’s likely to follow the script of “we’re down by a lot and we gotta score” fairly early, they may take even more than usual. (I’ll set the over/under at 25.5 three-point attempts.) Tennessee struggled a little early on the perimeter against Alabama State:

But got stuff in line by game’s end:

It’s all about consistently closing out on shooters, not over-pursuing, and forcing the shooter to think twice before pulling up. If you can even get the shooter to stop before shooting a three, it’s a great thing, as that means you’re in front of them.

NEXT PAGE: Lineup notes, key matchups, pickz

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