Scouting Report: Memphis Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers clash in highly anticipated rivalry game

This Saturday will continue an exciting streak of Memphis Tigers athletics as Penny Hardaway and co travel across the state to play the guys in orange on their home court in Knoxville. I won’t be making the trek this year, but have in the past and can tell you that game will be full of high tensions and possibly balled up fists. At this point, this game is the only sellout on the books this season for Thompson-Boling Arena.

Rick Barnes group came into the season unranked but quickly knocked off the then #20 Washington Huskies on a neutral court in their third game of the season. Since then they have fallen to a top 20 KenPom team in Florida State and emerged victorious against VCU. Currently the #19 ranked Vols sit at 7-1 as they prepare to face back-to-back AAC opponents in Memphis (#13) and Cincinnati.

Let’s take our time and enjoy this rivalry since Coach Barnes has already told media that the series is likely to come to a halt after the 2020 game in which the two schools will meet in the middle and face off in Nashville.

Honestly, this is a shame. How much more fun is a game with higher stakes that a dull bye game matchup with Who Knows Where U. Fans and players alike crave the extreme emotion of rivalries and the triumph and disappointment they provide.

There has been plenty of trash talking since the last time these two teams played. This includes both coaches and players. It’s a game that is on everyone’s radar as must-see TV.

On Tuesday, UT freshman Oliver Nkamhoua expressed his excitement to play the Tigers, even cutting off a reporter to tell him that before he could ask a full question.

Memphis is more freshman-heavy than the Vols, but we will see if talent or experience prevails.

Tennessee’s Strengths

Sharing the ball: They assist on 64% of their made field goals, which is good for a top 15 ranking in the country

Rebounds: On the offensive glass, the Volunteers grab 32.3% of the rebounds. This has been an Achilles heel for the Tigers as they allowed OR% of 38.3 and 44.1 to their past two opponents in Bradley and UAB, and it nearly cost them. Memphis ranks in the bottom half of the league in rebounding for wings and guards, which has given opponents ample opportunities for extra possessions.

Tennessee’s opponents only grab offensive rebounds 22.6% of the time, which makes them a top 20 defensive rebounding team. 

Defense: Opponents of the Volunteers are earning an effective field goal percentage of 41%, ranking the Vols in the top 10. Rick Barnes’ team Team has a defensive rating of 81.9, which is good for 7th in the nation. To date, they are only giving up 55.9 points per game while the Tigers are averaging 82.1.

Tennessee’s Weaknesses

Shooting: The Volunteers shooting this season is middle of the pack in the NCAA. They are hitting at a clip of 33.3% from three and 50.9% from two. They are near the bottom 50 teams in the country at scoring from beyond the arc with only 25% of their points earned there.

Roster Rundown

Lamonte Turner – The senior guard is one of the top 5 assisters (is that a word?) in college basketball from a rate standpoint. This season he is not shooting well from the field but he still continues to take the most shots on the Volunteers roster at 13 per game. Per game stats: 13.8p/3.8r/7.6a

Jordan Bowden – Another senior guard. He is a solid three point shooter, chucking in threes at a 42% clip. 13.9p/4.9r/2a

Josiah-Jordan James – The lone five star recruit in the class of 2019 for Rick Barnes, the freshman is making an impact on the boards. Four of the five UT starters average 4.9 rebounds per game or higher. James is the only UT starter to not average double figures in scoring. 6.1p/6.8r/2.3a 

John Fulkerson – Tennessee’s most efficient scorer with a 123 offensive rating, Fulkerson does all of his damane inside the arc. He hasn’t attempted a three pointer all season. Nationally, he ranks in the top 30 in both EFG% and TS%. 11.4p/5.8r/1.5a

Yves Pons – The junior forward is another efficient scorer who averages 64% from two and 36% shooting from three. 12.6p/5.5r/.9a

Oliver Nkamhoua – Coming off the bench, the strong freshman center is a major force on the offensive glass with a top 15 offensive rebounding percentage. 224 lbs 5.8p/4.9r/.1a

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Zak (@BarnBurnerBro) is a native Memphian who covers the Memphis Grizzlies, Tigers, and St. Louis Cardinals for The Barn. He spends his free time exploring breweries, restaurants, and leading the Ivan Rabb stan club.

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