Across the (By)Line: Tennessee Volunteers basketball


Tennessee Volunteers forward Jonas Aidoo (0) reaches for a loose ball during the UK vs. Tennessee SEC Tournament semifinal mens basketball game on Saturday, March 12, 2022, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. UK lost 69-62. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky basketball fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor.

This week: The Daily Beacon, Andrew Peters, Tennessee


With Tennessee in great form and Kentucky in poor form, do you worry the Vols may be too confident heading into the matchup?

I think they kind of learned their lesson in their loss to Colorado. They had a preseason win against Gonzaga and then a few blowout wins to start the season and I think they were feeling pretty good and kind of overlooked Colorado. I think they kind of learned their lesson and learned that it’s a tough season and you have to stay disciplined throughout the entire thing. I think you saw that against South Carolina on Saturday because they just walked in and steamrolled. They didn’t take their foot off the gas for the entire 40 minutes. If they’re not going to do that against South Carolina, a team who isn’t necessarily that great, I definitely don’t think that they will against Kentucky. Kentucky is a solid team despite the year and it’s still a big rivalry.


Tennessee has a serious home court advantage. How much do you think that’ll come into play on Saturday?

I think it’ll be interesting because we’re (Tennessee) not in session. We won’t be in session for two more weeks, so students aren’t back on campus yet. Off campus students are kind of back, but I don’t think there will be as many students as there would be if this game was played two or three weeks later. I still think people will show up and be loud, but just not as many students. That said, Knoxville loves Tennessee athletics, especially football and basketball so I think anytime Kentucky comes to town it’s going to be a pretty hostile environment. Every game it seems like Tennessee goes on a 10 or 15-point run and it kind of shifts the whole thing and the fans start to get really into it. I think that’s the kind of moment that could be really deflating for Kentucky.


What makes this Tennessee team so good?

It was a really good team last year, we came up short in the tournament obviously, but I think what is so special about this year’s team is that it’s the exact same as last year but with more experience and some new talent. Obviously, you lost Kennedy Chandler, who’s a once every five- or 10-year kind of player, but you’ve also got Julian Phillips, a freshman who’s coming in and already making a pretty big impact. He had a 25-point game earlier in the season, he’s the kind of guy who can go off if you need them to. You also got guys like Josiah-Jordan James, Santiago Vescovi, Uros Plavsic, Olivier Nkamhoua and Zakai Zeigler who have been around Tennessee and have some experience and have played in some really really tough games including against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament last year.


What do you think is going to happen on Saturday?

Basketball is so inconsistent. I think it just comes down to what Tennessee team shows up and what Kentucky team shows up. I’ll talk about Tennessee because that’s kind of my area of expertise. I think if Tennessee comes out and plays the way it has in its last two games, they’ll win by double digits very easily and what that looks like is coming out and going on a run to start the game. You can’t be missing; you can’t be shooting 30-40% from the field. If they can do that and then play the type of defense that they’re going to play no matter what then that’s when you can get a win. On the other hand, I think that the way this becomes a competitive game is if Tennessee has a shooting performance like it did against Colorado or in some of those earlier games. Tennessee’s defense has always been there and the one thing that it has struggled with sometimes is offense. That said, I think they’re going to have a good game. I think they’re fired up and have momentum on their side. I think all of that will lead to a pretty big Tennessee win.