Busting Brackets

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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Run Efficient Offense

Running efficient offense goes hand in hand with Knecht doing what he does. There have been to many times and especially in their losses when the Volunteers have been far to reliant on their star to carry the load. In their wins they have ran efficient offense and everyone has been getting involved especially the big men.  Kentucky is likely going to be a very willing participant in allowing the Volunteers to run efficient offense.

As mentioned, the Wildcats have struggled on the defensive end in conference play. They are currently allowing teams to shoot 49% from inside the arc and are allowing teams wide open threes. Kentucky does that because they know they can outscore you and they don’t have to play much defense. That has bit them in the past. The Volunteers enter the game shooting 45% from the floor. They have not been the most efficient team on most nights but do have the guys to change that and take advantage of Kentucky.

Tennessee doesn’t need to worry about outscoring Kentucky they need to worry about having the other players around Knecht help him out and make shots. The best way to do that is to move the ball and look for the best wide open shot either in the paint or wide open threes. In the paint is going to be difficult as the Kentucky defense blocks over 6 shots per game but if Tennessee can make their open shots especially from deep then that is going to pull the defense out and open up the driving lanes.

Players like Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Ziegler, and Josiah Jordan James are going to be huge in this game. Can that trio who collectively shoot the most outside of Knecht make threes?  They are the ones who are going to be relied on to get buckets to help the Tennessee offense and help it not be a one man show. In the wins those guys have been great in the losses some of them have struggled.

There is one other factor in this game, and it is in the middle of the paint. Jonas Aidoo is the most efficient offensive player not named Dalton Knecht for the Volunteers. He is a security blanket for them because he gets easy baskets in the post and is a good rebounder. He is also a good passer out of double teams and doesn’t turn the ball over that much. If he can start to get easy baskets in the paint or grab tough rebounds enough to neutralize the Kentucky bigs Tennessee should have zero problem running efficient offense through the post.