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Tennessee Basketball: 3 keys for Vols to beat Kentucky in top-10 matchup

Tennessee is fresh off a loss on Tuesday night. They are traveling to a hostile Rupp Arena. What must they do to win the top 10 matchup against Kentucky

Jan 30, 2024; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Josiah-Jordan James (30) brings
Jan 30, 2024; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Josiah-Jordan James (30) brings / Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
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Dalton Knecht

This one is going to be on every single scouting report of every single game that Tennessee plays for the rest of the season. It is also going to be the key for most Tennessee wins from here on out. It makes sense that the Tennessee star and SEC Player of the Year candidate should be involved in every game plan. Knecht is a transfer from Northern Colorado who was known for his offense but not so much his defense. If you know anything about Tennessee Basketball and their coach Rick Barnes, not playing defense is not going to fly no matter how good you are at offense.

The junior guard put in a ton of work in the offseason to become a serviceable defender and when he added that to his offensive game and Tennessee has a player who rarely leaves the floor and is a game changer. The guard has turned into an unstoppable force on the offensive end. In SEC play he is averaging 28.4 points per game and doing it with 53% from the floor and 45% from deep. He comes into the game scoring 30 points in 4 of the last 5 games. Knecht will carry the Volunteers offense and usually he can carry them to a victory. Keeping the guard on his tear is going to be key for the Volunteers in this one.

Lucky for Tennessee the Kentucky Wildcats have been porous on the defensive end in conference play. Kentucky comes into the game allowing a little under 83 points per game in the conference. They don’t have a player that can guard Knecht one on one, and he should be able to get whatever he wants on the offensive end. Kentucky will give up open threes and they will put teams on the line. Those are two things that are playing right into the strengths of the guard. If he can get comfortable, he can score a lot of points in a hurry.

Knecht doesn’t have to score to impact the game. His ability to score draws a crowd and if he is going to be guarded, he is a good enough passer to get it to the open man, and he is sometimes used as a decoy to draw defenders to get open shots. Knecht is going to be active both with the ball in his hands and in his movements without the ball. Tennessee is going to need him to score at his normal volume to win this game and since he has been unstoppable over the last few weeks coach Barnes and Knecht should not change a thing keep running the exact same offense and make Kentucky adjust.