Tennessee and Vanderbilt were scheduled to play twice this week. After Tuesday's game was postponed, both teams will meet in Knoxville on Saturday.
Vanderbilt enters Saturday's game with an overall record of 4-5. The Commodores have lost all three conference games that they have played this season, and they enter Saturday's game on a three-game losing streak. Although their record isn't great, they have played their last two opponents down to the wire. In his second season at the helm in Nashville, Jerry Stackhouse's record as head coach for Vanderbilt is 15-26.
Vandy Offensive Preview:
Vanderbilt is averaging 74 points per game this season. It's vitally important for the Vols to stop Scottie Pippen Jr. The sophomore guard is one of the best scorers in the entire conference, scoring 21.6 points per game. He's a willing 3-point shooter who's shooting from deep at a 36.5% clip. He's at his best when he's in attack mode heading toward the rim. At 6'3", he's not the biggest guard in the world, but he's a strong-bodied player who thrives when playing through contact.
The Vols need to focus on stopping Pippen Jr. from getting into the paint. As good of a scorer as he is, he often attracts other defenders over to help. When this happens, he's shown the ability to find the open man and hurt opposing teams as a passer. If the Vols struggle to stop Pippen Jr. early, Rick Barnes may try and guard him with length. As good as he has been this year, throwing a long-armed, taller defender at him has worked at times this year.
Vanderbilt will run sets and off ball screens to try and get players open. Other than stopping Pippen Jr., the Vols need to come ready to defend the perimeter. Dylan Disu is shooting 38.5% from three, but he's far from the only guy who can hurt you from deep. Pippen Jr. and Disu lead the team in 3-point attempts, but two other Commodores are shooting 50% or better from beyond the arch. If there's a path to victory for Vanderbilt, it likely involves the Commodores getting hot from outside. Vandy doesn't have the most threatening post game, but Disu is an athletic forward who can score.
Vandy Defensive Preview:
Like most teams, you'll see a lot of man-to-man defense from the Commodores on Saturday. Opponents are scoring just over 70 points per game this year when facing Vanderbilt. Through three games against SEC competition, Vanderbilt is giving up an eye-opening 84 points per contest.
Defensively the Commodores can get caught napping from time to time. Opponents have been able to get to the rim this season, and Tennessee could do the same if they make it a priority. Vanderbilt isn't the biggest team down low, and Tennessee could potentially attack the paint with a combination of guards and post players.
This is a rivalry game that is often played closer on the scoreboard than people think going into games. It's especially intriguing because the two teams are both coming off of longer than usual breaks. Seeing which team comes out showing less rust might be one of the more intriguing things to watch for on Saturday.
Game time is set for 6:00 PM on the SEC Network.