The Kentucky Wildcats versus the Tennessee Volunteers. A classic rivalry between two top 25 teams will tip-off at 1:00 Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena. Kentucky is currently 13-3, 3-1 in the SEC and ranked #18 in the country. Meanwhile, Tennessee enters at 11-4, 2-2 in the SEC and ranked #22 in the country. After earning their first road victory of the season on Tuesday night, the Wildcats will now look to get their first win against a ranked opponent.
Coach Rick Barnes is in his seventh season in Knoxville and has 735 wins to his name in 35 years as a head coach. Tennessee has one of the best defenses in college basketball but have struggled offensively of late. They have yet to score more than 68 points in a conference game. The Volunteers are very comfortable with winning in the 60’s wile Kentucky would much prefer to see the game reach the 80’s.
For the most part, the Vols have beaten the teams they are supposed to beat and have lost to the best teams on their schedule. All four of their losses have come to teams in the KenPom top 20 (Villanova, Texas Tech, Alabama, and LSU) all of which were away from Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee does have an impressive home win over Arizona on their resume. It is hard to know exactly what to make of this team, but you can always count on a battle when the Volunteers take on the Wildcats.
As always, we’ve got a full scouting report prepared for your consumption. You will find an in-depth look at their personnel, offensive and defensive scheme breakdowns with supporting video clips, and the keys to the game. Now, let’s dive in and get to know more about the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tennessee Volunteers Personnel
#1 Kennedy Chandler: 6’0″ 171 lbs, Freshman Point Guard
13.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.1 apg
Playmaking point guard. Good shooter. No 3’s! You need to get out and take away the 3’s off the dribble. Pick him up early. Break his rhythm on the perimeter. Get over the ballscreens and handoffs. Chase him off downscreens and flares. Be willing to switch the ballscreens to stay between him and the basket. Don’t let him reject the ballscreen! Really wants to drive it right. Get over and cut off the right hand drives. Excellent passer. Don’t over help as he drives. We would rather make him finish at the rim than kick out to a shooter for 3. You need to be tightening up to your man as he drives it. Stay on his hip and get your hands up at the end of his drives. Make him finish. Very active hands defensively. 2.3 steals per game. Make him take contested jump shots.
#25 Santiago Vescovi: 6’3″ 191 lbs, Junior Guard
13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.4 apg
Left-handed shooter. SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! Need to be tight to him at all times to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. 119 of 166 shots have been 3’s. Tighten up as the ball comes towards you. Get over the ballscreens and handoffs. Chase him off downscreens and flares. Switch if there is space to get out and take away the 3. Will shoot them from deep so you need to get all the way out there to take him away. Loves to shot fake on the perimeter. Stay down on the fakes. He will shot fake on almost every catch. Will drive it left to get to the rim or will shoot the pull-up when driving it right. Contest the pull-up jumpers. The deeper he takes it the more he is driving to pass. Don’t over help when he drives. Very active hands defensively. 2.1 steals per game. NO 3’s!
#30 Josiah-Jordan James: 6’6″ 214 lbs, Junior Guard/Forward
6.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.2 apg
Left-handed shooter. SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! Need to be tight to him at all times to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. 67 of 89 shots have been 3’s. Tighten up as the ball comes towards you. Not shooting a good percentage, but he still only wants to catch-and-shoot. Need to take him away. Get over the ballscreens and handoffs. Chase him off downscreens and flares. Switch if he ballscreens to take away the 3’s. Will drive it left when you take him away from 3. Make him finish contested 2’s. Physical and strong around the basket. Excellent rebounder. Will crash the offensive glass hard. Box out. Can’t let him get going from 3.
#10 John Fulkerson: 6’9″ 219 lbs, Graduate Student Forward
9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
Left-handed forward. Wants to score around the basket. Ballscreens and rolls to the basket. Playing the 4 this season primarily so he will catch it on the perimeter some. Left hand driver. NO LEFT HAND DRIVES!!! Always coming back to his left to finish. Loves to go right to spin back left. Be physical on his right shoulder as he drives it to keep him from coming back left. Left hand, right shoulder in the post. Non-shooter. You can play off him, but don’t want to give him a big head of steam to drive it. Have to be tighter to guard the ballscreens as well. Keep him at arms length and be ready for him to drive it at you. Loves the turnaround jumper over the left shoulder. Have to give a hard contest. Make him score with you between him and the basket. Excellent offensive rebounder. BOX OUT!
#13 Olivier Nkamhoua: 6’8″ 232 lbs, Junior Forward
9.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.2 apg
Physical, athletic 4/5 man. Skilled. Capable shooter. 11/22 from 3. Need to give a good contest if he shoots from 3. Right hand driver from the perimeter. No right hand drives! You have to stay between him and the basket. Will ballscreen and roll. Give ground and stay between him and the basket on the roll. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Be physical on his left shoulder and make him score it back into you. Wants to get to the midline to make his post moves. Make him score over you. Excellent offensive rebounder. BOX OUT!
#5 Zakai Zeigler: 5’9″ 167 lbs, Freshman Point Guard
6.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.6 apg
Backup point guard. Extremely quick with the ball. Will push it up the floor hard in transition. Need to get the ball stopped. Capable shooter, but more dangerous as a driver. Stay between him and the basket. You can start by hoping under the ballscreens and handoffs. Just get your hands up to be ready to give a hard contest if he shoots behind. Right hand driver. No right hand drives! Stay on his hip and get your hands up at the end of his drives. Make him finish. Do not over help when he drives. Very good passer. Would rather make him finish than kick out for 3. Very active hands defensively. 1.6 steals per game. No right hand drives! No layups!
#24 Justin Powell: 6’6″ 197 lbs, Sophomore Guard
5.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 0.9 apg
SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! Wants to catch-and-shoot. 41 of 62 shots have been 3’s. Need to be tight to him at all times to take away the 3’s. Tighten up as the ball is driven towards you. Get over ballscreens and handoffs. Chase off downscreens and flares. Find him in transition. Will shoot from deep. Get all the way out and take him away. Will drive it right when you take him away from 3. Make him finish 2’s with you between him and the basket. Absolutely no help off him. No 3’s!
#12 Victor Bailey Jr.: 6’4″ 182 lbs, Senior Guard
4.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.6 apg
Left-handed shooter. Shooter! No catch-and-shoot 3’s! 49 of 73 shots have been 3’s. Not shooting a good percentage, but he just wants to catch-and-shoot. Tighten up as the ball is driven towards you. Extremely athletic. Will drive it left when you take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. No left hand drives. Just stay tight and take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s.
#2 Brandon Huntley-Hatfield: 6’10” 246 lbs, Freshman Forward
4.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.2 apg
Strong backup forward. Physical around the basket. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Will face up to drive it right in the post. No right hand drives. Be physical on his left shoulder. Make him score with you between him and the basket. Very good offensive rebounder. Box out!
#33 Uros Plavsic: 7’0″ 251 lbs, Junior Center
3.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.4 apg
High-energy backup 5-man. Plays very hard. Ballscreens and rolls to the rim. Stay between him and the basket. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. Be physical on his left shoulder. Very good offensive rebounder. Box out! Don’t let him play harder than you!
Tennessee Volunteers Offense
Tennessee is primarily a 4-around-1 Motion team that is almost exclusively playing two big men together this season. #10 Fulkerson is starting at the 4 and even #13 Nkamhoua will slide to the 4 when #33 Plavsic is in. This means their 4-man is usually a non-shooter playing out on the perimeter. We can’t sag too far off of them though because we need to be up there to guard the ballscreens. They ballscreen a lot.
While the Volunteers forwards are not outside shooting threats, they will play three guards at all times who can really shoot it. Of the six guards in their rotation, they each average 2.9 or more 3-point attempts per game. Unfortunately for the Vols, they haven’t shot the ball great as a team this season. They are 40th nationally in attempts, but make just 32.2% of them which checks in at 234th in the country. We still have to be very deliberate in taking them away from 3 because, at nearly 28 attempts per game, they can get hot in a hurry.
Coach Barnes is getting great point guard play from freshmen Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler. Those two are extremely quick and are excellent playmakers. Slowing them down will be the key to slowing down the Tennessee Volunteers offense as a whole. Let’s take a look at the film.
Secondary Staggered Double Away
This is what we will see from Tennessee more than anything else offensively. They will come down in a secondary alignment, reverse the ball through the trail spot, and set a staggered double away. A lot of times, they will curl the first screen and allow the first screener to turn and come off a single downscreen. As you will see in this clip, they will often times empty out the post (Fulkerson drifts out to the corner) to allow room for the slip. Both #10 Fulkerson and #13 Nkamhoua (who gets it here) love to slip that down screen and catch the ball inside. This is WAY too much help on the post by LSU and it leads to an open 3 by #25 Vescovi. We cannot let him be this open. Just wall up in the post and make them score over you.
Secondary to Motion
Once again, Tennessee gets to their secondary staggered double away action. This time #24 Powell back cuts the staggered screen which triggers #25 Vescovi to come off the single down screen. #10 Fulkerson spaces out to the ball side corner. When Vescovi gets the ball up top Fulkerson flares in on the right wing for #1 Chandler while #30 James downscreens for Powell. Chandler gets downhill as Fulkerson rolls to the basket and feeds the post. We have to be more physical on Fulkerson’s right shoulder! You can’t let him get to the midline this easily for a left-handed hook shot.
Here is Tennessee in their typical 4-around-1 Motion offense. There are several breakdowns from Arizona defensively in this clip. First of all, you can’t let #30 James turn the corning driving it left. Secondly, closeout short and take away the right hand drives from #13 Nkamhoua. Finally, when guarding a shooter do not stare at the ball, ESPECIALLY when it is someone like #13 Nkamhoua driving it. Tighten up to your man as the ball is driven towards you. Do not let #24 Powell get this wide open of a look.
High Middle Ballscreen
There will be a lot of possessions for Tennessee that simply begin with a high middle ballscreen. This is a good example of why we have to stay up tighter to #10 Fulkerson when he sets a ballscreen instead of playing him way off in the paint. You have to be up there to help corral #1 Chandler off of the ballscreen. Also, when Fulkerson catches it at the free throw line he gets too much momentum to the basket when you play off him. You are better off coming out and guarding him at the free throw line and being physical on his right shoulder when he drives it. He is ALWAYS spinning back left to finish.
Cross Screen for Post Touch
Coach Barnes doesn’t run very many set plays, but when he does it is usually to get the ball inside. They will run this cross screen play for both #13 Nkamhoua and #10 Fulkerson. Be physical on Nkamhoua’s left shoulder and then contest the turnaround jumper.
Tennessee Volunteers Defense
There is no debating the fact that the Tennessee Volunteers are elite defensively. They are second nationally in KenPom‘s adjusted defensive efficiency and are sixth in the county in turnover percentage. The Volunteers apply significant pressure with their guards, four of which average at least 1.6 steals per game.
The on-ball pressure forces teams to drive the basketball and when they do, Tennessee will stuff the gaps aggressively. They are much more in the gaps than they are in the passing lanes. Their turnovers come from on-ball steals or aggressively helping in the gaps. We must be ready to penetrate and kick because getting all the way to the rim on the first or second drive will be very hard. You have to be strong with the ball and not dribble too much. Be more willing to catch and shoot or give it up after just a couple of downhill dribbles. Looking to feed the post will be a nice pressure release as well.
Plays like this are going to be no good against Tennessee. You have to play off of two feet at the end of your drives. If you leave your feet without a plan it is going to be a turnover. We cannot give them easy baskets in transition because of turnovers. If we make them play against our set defense in the half court they won’t score enough to win.
Keys to the Game
- Take them away from 3! Attempting nearly 28 3’s per game. Not shooting a great percentage, but they have good shooters. It is what they want to do. No 3’s for #1 Chandler, #12 Bailey Jr., #24 Powell, #25 Vescovi, or #30 James.
- Take care of the ball. Tennessee forces 18.4 turnovers per game including 10.7 steals. We need to turn it over 14 times or fewer.
- Contain #1 Chandler and #5 Zeigler off the dribble. Be willing to switch the ballscreens to stay between them and the basket if you need to. Make them finish inside. Don’t over help when they drive. Excellent playmakers.
- Dominate the glass. The Volunteers have a good rotation of four big men, usually playing two at a time. They are 66th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. We need to have the rebounding advantage in every game we play.