Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4 SEC) at Tennessee (10-8, 2-4 SEC)
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 7:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) . Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: Vol Network (WGOW-FM 102.3, Chattanooga)
Series Record: Tennessee leads, 111-70
Probable Vanderbilt Starters
F-Rod Odom, 6-9, 212, SO, (9.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
F-Shelby Moats, 6-8, 225, SO, (3.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
F-Sheldon Jeter, 6-7, 215, FR, (5.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
G-Dai-Jon Parker, 6-3, 215, SO, (6.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.6 apg)
G-Kedren Johnson, 6-4, 215, SO, (14.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, .325 3PT%)
Key Reserves: Josh Henderson (6-11, 220, SO); Kyle Fuller (6-1, 180, JR); Kevin Bright (6-5, 210, FR).
Probable Tennessee Starters
F-Kenny Hall, 6-9, 230, SR, (6.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
F-Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, 270, SO, (11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, .532 FG%)
G-Josh Richardson, 6-6, 188, SO, (8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
G-Armani Moore, 6-3, 195, SR, (2.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg,)
G-Jordan McRae, 6-1, 205, JR, (14.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, .325 3PT%)
Key Reserves: Trae Golden (6-2, 205, JR); Skylar McBee (6-3, 195, SR); Yemi Makanjuola (6-9, 250, SO); Derek Reese (6-7, 218, FR).
The opening tip
Tennessee finally got its first significant conference win of the season by knocking off Alabama 54-53 in Knoxville on Saturday.
A 2-4 conference mark is hardly something to feel great about, but with the schedule turning in UT’s favor, it’s time for the Vols to make a move if they want to position themselves for a chance at the postseason.
Starting with Vanderbilt, a team the Vols will also play in Nashville on Feb. 13, UT’s next five opponents have a combined 8-14 record in conference play. Getting back to .500 is a modest goal for this upcoming stretch.
The team Vanderbilt will put on the floor will be much different than what it has looked like in the past few years. All five starters are underclassmen, and the likes of John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli – regulars from the last three seasons – have moved on to the NBA.
Coach Kevin Stallings’ new look includes several players who lack experience, but many who aren’t shy to launch the 3. Seven players have attempted at least 27 3-point attempts. Guard Kedren Johnson leads the way with 36 made 3-pointers. Kevin Bright (48.3 percent) and Sheldon Jeter (40 percent) lead the team in terms of percentage.
As a team, the Commodores shoot 35 percent from behind the arc.
Tennessee will look to build on the performance of Jarnell Stokes, who scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds against Alabama. Stokes has a chance for another big game on the boards against the Commodores. The Vols average five more rebounds per game than does Vanderbilt (37-32).
Freshman guard Armani Moore is expected to make his second career start. He’ll join the consistent Josh Richardson and Jordan McRae, who is currently the SEC’s second-leading scorer (20.8 ppg), in the starting backcourt.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on Vanderbilt: “They’re a talented team, they’re a young team. You see them playing a lot better now. They had a tough loss at Mizzou, but when you have a team with four or five guys on the floor at a time that can make 3-point shots, it spreads you out, and their point guard does a tremendous job of controlling the tempo, anything can happen. We expect it to be a tough game.”
The Vols moved up 20 spots to No. 79 in the newest RPI rankings released on Monday. . Tennessee currently ranks sixth nationally in average home attendance (16,896). . Moore has collected 26 rebounds over the last three games – more than any other SEC guard in that span. . Despite these two teams being from the state of Tennessee, only two likely starters hail from the Volunteer state: Stokes and Vanderbilt’s Johnson. . Tennessee’s 111 wins over Vanderbilt is the most by the Vols over any opponent.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga