Show Me My Opponent: Vanderbilt (#2)

HOW TENNESSEE BEATS IT

Score

Here’s a simple equation for you: Vanderbilt’s rim defense is pretty bad. Tennessee, in turn, should go to the rim as often as they possibly can.

They have somewhat gotten better at this, and should continue to get better at it.

If I had better analysis, I’d give it, but I genuinely enjoy previewing the Jacksonville States and Florida A&Ms of the world way more than I enjoy previewing Tennessee playing the worst SEC program currently going.

Tennessee’s best performance from three since the January 7 Missouri game, minus a 10-of-22 blip-on-the-map against Mississippi State, is either a 6-of-15 performance against Kansas or a 6-of-16 outing against Arkansas.

You pick which one you like more if you’re into that. Me, personally, it’s just not fun showing you how easy it is to get open against this putrid Vandy defense only for Tennessee to miss wide-open shots that quality shooters should be able to make.

Let’s talk about All-SEC John Fulkerson

Before I talk about defense, I want to talk about John Fulkerson.

I don’t like self-promotion at all because I am an introvert that prefers to stay in the shadows, but I do want to congratulate myself for owning the first, second, and third tweets about All-SEC John Fulkerson. For a while, it seemed like a stretch, as Fulkerson’s offensive usage rate was more like that of a mid-level role player and not a main focus. Lately, though, that’s shifted: Fulkerson used 20% of team possessions while on the court against Alabama, 27% against Kentucky, and now 34% against South Carolina.

He is very much so an All-SEC candidate. Let’s reward him for being one of the few things to get excited about over the last two months of a muddled season.

Defensively, this should be a stats-padding game

Vandy has been a much simpler scout since Nesmith left. Across their last 10 games, including the first Tennessee game, Vanderbilt’s posted a horrifying 44% eFG%, which ranks 341st of 353 teams nationally. They don’t hit twos (46.8%, 280th) or threes (27%, 333rd), they get blocked more than any team in the country (18.7% offensive Block%!!!), and the only thing they’ve done well at all is get to the free throw line (46th in Free Throw Rate). They’re a below-average free throw shooting team, though, so does it really matter?

The scout here is clear. Vandy still takes a ton of threes, so Tennessee’s got to focus first on making sure the perimeter is covered.

The ‘Dores will not be going 0-for-25 again, and Tennessee has to be prepared to ensure Vandy gets as few open looks as they did in that game.

Similarly, they need to be ready to take advantage of Vandy’s suddenly putrid attempts to score at the rim.

I’m hoping this feels like a cathartic, 40-minute melting of all Vandy has to offer offensively. Tennessee’s minimum goal in this game should be to hold Vanderbilt to 0.9 PPP or lower.

NEXT PAGE: Division 2 teams in Tennessee, ranked: 1. Lincoln Memorial 2. Lee 3. King 4. Tusculum 5. Union 6. Carson-Newman 7. Christian Brothers 8. LeMoyne-Owen 9. Lane 10. Trevecca Nazarene

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