Show Me My Opponent: Alabama

HOW TENNESSEE BEATS IT

C:\Users\RBarnes\MissState\secondhalf.exe

WELCOME to Second Half Mississippi State Game! Please select your first option.

“begin play”

You have chosen to begin play. Best of luck!
Oh no! The opponent is on a 10-0 run! You can call a timeout or play on.

“play on”

Very well then. Onward! You have hit one (1) three!
Uh oh! It looks like the opponent is making a lot of shots. What do you do? You may play defense conservatively or aggressively. This affects how many fouls you will commit.

“aggressively”

Sounds good! Your team will now commit 13 fouls this half.
Unfortunately, your strategy has not worked! It appears that the opponent is rebounding all of their misses and simply placing them in the spherical hole ten feet off of the ground. You may: Emphasize Rebounding, Foul Harder, or Quit.

“emphasize rebounding”

Okay! Thank you for your input.
The opponent is still grabbing plenty of rebounds and you haven’t stopped fouling. It looks dire. What will you do?

“rebound”

Okay!
The opponent is still grabbing plenty of rebounds and you haven’t stopped fouling. It looks dire. What will you do?

“please just rebound”

Okay!
The opponent is still grabbing plenty of rebounds and you haven’t stopped fouling. It looks dire. What will you do?

“i am literally begging you to put your hands up in the sky and rebound a basketball just do it”

Command not recognized.

“REBOUND”

Okay!
The opponent is still grabbing plenty of rebounds and you haven’t stopped fouling. It looks dire. What will you do?

“BOX OUT AND REBOUNDA BASKETB ALL”

Command not recognized.

“DIE”

Command not recognized. Would you like to try again?

“quit game”

Are you sure?

“I AM CERTAIN, YES, JUST LET ME DIE, NO COFFIN, WET MUD”

Okay! Thank you for playing Second Half Mississippi State Game. Best of luck next time!

Hey look at that: scoring at the rim isn’t so hard after all

If you like being positive in the face of deep, desperate sadness, Tennessee dropped 1.173 points per possession on Saturday, which is their second-best effort of the whole season. That’s something good to look at, I guess. That game was quite a bit slower than this one will be, but I thought it was at least somewhat notable that Euro Plastics was pretty dominant at the rim.

He went 5-for-6 on his layup/dunk attempts; the rest of the Tennessee roster went 4-for-8. Unsurprisingly, when the going got tough, the team defaulted to their usual diet of non-rim twos – 22 in all. That can’t happen against an Alabama team that loves when you take non-rim twos.

To start, Tennessee’s simply got to be better about getting the ball in the hands of the right guys and telling them where to go. Yves Pons having zero attempts at the rim on Saturday is flagrantly inexcusable, and it was a partial catalyst for his worst performance in a month.

John Fulkerson took six non-rim twos for whatever reason in what was easily his worst game since last year.

You can post up on Alabama and you can get to the rim in transition on Alabama; Tennessee must get serious about doing both.

Perimeter shooting may have a pulse, emphasis on may

The perimeter shooting against State was a nice surprise, as the Vols went 10-of-22 from deep. That’s great! If they can figure out a way to somewhat replicate that from game-to-game – say, a baseline of 30-33% on non-outlier nights – we’ll have something here. Simply put: you gotta get the ball to the dudes that can hit their threes, and 21 games into the season, that looks like four players on the roster: Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, Yves Pons, and Jalen Johnson.

I genuinely thought we might see a greater Jordan Bowden turnaround after his phenomenal outing against Kansas, but it’s instead led to a 2-of-10 run from three since then and a 7-of-47 total in conference play. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

Capitalize on what they don’t do well

If Tennessee’s serious about getting to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year, they have to capitalize on the things Alabama’s not great at. We know they don’t force turnovers, they don’t rebound well, and they foul a lot.

So: get the ball in the hands of those that won’t commit dumb errors. Rush the boards after any miss. Go inside early and often, and force Alabama’s not-that-big guys to defend you cleanly.

This isn’t that hard of a gameplan, really.

Defensively: c’mon

I am partially willing to chalk Saturday up to once-in-a-lifetime Dumb Stuff. Never in anyone’s wildest dreams could we have imagined this defense, which had been pretty excellent all year long, allowing the tied-for-worst PPP outing in the last 20 years of Tennessee basketball. (Given the way the last couple of Buzz teams played defense, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he owns five of the nine worst Tennessee defensive efficiency nights in KenPom’s existence.) To be sure, Tennessee got a small bit of a raw whistle in this game, though I strongly believe it had no true effect on the outcome. Rare are the nights when a 30% three-point shooter hits four threes and the above-average free throw shooting team hits 83% of its 30 attempts and a bad mid-range team hits >50% of their mid-range attempts. It was simply One of Those Games, which doesn’t excuse the atrocious rim defense or defensive rebounding, but it’s just hard to replicate.

That said: the embarrassing effort on the boards, short-handed or not, has gotta stop. There is no excuse for a player as good as Yves Pons to walk out of Saturday’s fixture with three rebounds.

There is no excuse for a seven-footer who played 26 minutes to also walk out with three rebounds. (This one is a video clip because it looked rough as a GIF.)

As I mentioned for the last preview, I’m not a “heart > stats” guy, ever, but the effort’s gotta get better. Alabama isn’t as severe of a threat on the boards, thankfully.

Please

Tennessee has to guard the perimeter with ferocity in this game. Alabama’s probably going to take 25+ threes if not 30+, and Tennessee cannot play the same style of defense they’ve played against lesser-shooting teams like Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.

These guys can hit their threes, and if Tennessee doesn’t get to the perimeter quickly to stop them, it’ll look like the Wisconsin and Georgia games all over again, just at a faster pace.

In terms of interior defense: please just block shots again. I’m tired of writing previews after losses.

NEXT PAGE: Honestly the end of the Gottfried era should be marked as equally embarrassing. Four Top 50 recruits and you go 18-14?

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