Vols, Cats collide in highly anticipated rematch

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

In one of the most highly anticipated rematches of the year, the Volunteers look to continue their undefeated home winning streak as the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats travel to Knoxville on Saturday to take on the No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers. In the previous match-up, Kentucky surprisingly handled Tennessee with relative ease en route to a 17-point victory over the No. 1 team in the country at that time.

The loss put Tennessee in a “funk” that they have yet to recover from. After falling to the Wildcats, the Volunteers struggled mightily to put away one of the worst teams in the SEC in Vanderbilt, at home. After struggling with the Commodores, the Volunteers had to travel to Baton Rouge and take on one of the most underrated teams in the entire country in LSU.

Falling to LSU, Tennessee moved out of first place in the SEC standings, tying the Wildcats and Tigers for the top spot in the conference. With LSU holding the head-to-head tie breaker over the Vols and Cats, Saturday’s match-up in Knoxville holds SEC title implications, as well as NCAA tournament implications.

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March is here, which means college basketball has finally reached the apex of the season. With conference tournaments looming, teams across the country are trying to work out what is left of the kinks in their system. With two legendary coaches leading each team, Tennessee and Kentucky are in good shape to get to where they want to be in time for conference tournaments, as well as the NCAA tournament.

No team in the country is playing better than Kentucky right now. With wins over North Carolina, Kansas and Tennessee, Kentucky’s body of work seems to be a lot thicker than most. Tennessee, although ranked No. 1 for four-straight weeks, has only defeated three teams ranked inside the top-25. Although Kentucky’s quality of loss may be worse, their quality of wins heavily outweigh those of Tennessee.

What To Watch For

Reid Travis is expected to miss the rematch with the Volunteers on Saturday. Although he didn’t have eye-popping numbers in the previous game, Travis’ ability to lock down Tennessee’s best player (Grant Williams) proved to be a deciding factor in the game. If E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards continue to give the Cats some quality minutes, Travis’ absence may not be so bad on Kentucky.

Jordan Bone and Kyle Alexander have both been dealing with a stomach-bug for the Volunteers. Generally accepted as one of the best point guards in the country, it is up to Bone to dictate the pace and play style of the Volunteers. If Tennessee can get the ball to the interior and cause some of the Wildcat players to get into foul trouble, it could prove beneficial to the Vols in their hopes for redemption.

P.J. Washington and Tyler Herro are currently shooting as well as any tandem in the nation. They will have to continue to shoot the ball efficiently if they want to make a run in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

Admiral Schofield has seemed to have fallen off as of late. The Volunteers will need Schofield to lock down his assignment, no matter who that may be. Without on-ball pressure, the Volunteers will be in for a long day.

Prediction: Kentucky by 12. Tennessee is dealing with Bone and Alexander being sick. With LaMonte Turner’s inconsistency, the Volunteers haven’t had the solid bench play and depth that they had earlier in the season. Meanwhile, Kentucky is playing as well as, if not better than, any team in the country currently.

Score prediction: Kentucky – 78 | Tennessee – 62