Show Me My Opponent: Jacksonville State

HOW TENNESSEE BEATS IT

It ain’t gonna suck forever, promise

Hey, uh, free request: make a three, please. Tennessee’s offense was never going to look any good this season (at least until February/March), but I’m a little disappointed in just how bad it’s been from three. Theoretically, heading into the season, Tennessee was going to struggle to score inside the perimeter and would likely have to rely on Bowden/Turner/etc. threes to carry them over the top some nights. That…has not been the case. In the last five games, Tennessee’s 20-for-94 (21.3%) from downtown, also known as the Cameron Payne Special. It’s been awful to watch, even more mind-numbing when you remember how many of the misses were wide-open.

That said, high-major teams don’t shoot this poorly forever, and Tennessee will regress to the mean – whatever that may be for them – within a few weeks. (If asked to put a target percentage, I’d guess Tennessee gets back to around 32-34% from downtown by season’s end. Not beautiful, obviously, but not as butt as it is now.) Tennessee can take their share of threes if they’d like against a fairly stringent perimeter D, and if they do, it needs to be focused on quality spot-up looks and running guys off of off-ball screens. Shooters shoot, and eventually, shots fall.

They’ve got to press the paint in this one, as they should have a serious advantage from the tip. Tennessee’s been proficient at cutting to the basket for most of the season, particularly with John Fulkerson and Yves Pons.

Also, who do I have to speak to for Josiah-Jordan James to finally attack the rim? It feels like it happens once in a blue moon, and it’s kind of baffling he doesn’t do it more. Same with Jordan Bowden, and, honestly, same with Pons.

Defensively, Tennessee’s getting to go up against the third-worst offense on their entire schedule. It’s a group that’s at the national average at shooting, but turns the ball over often and very rarely gets to the free throw line. A couple of easy fixes from the Cincinnati game should be implemented here: stop going under on ball screens against shooters and protect your own boards better.

Tennessee wins if they hit threes, obviously, but you make it a lot easier for yourself when you don’t give up 42% OREB% outings to an opponent that hadn’t been very good on the boards. Tennessee should dominate in defensive rebounding this game; really, if Tennessee allows JSU to go over a 25% OREB%, we’ll need to talk.

Guard them, do your thing at the rim, and get out of here with what should be one of the five easiest wins of the season.

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