[Moderated by Matt Jones]
For their third game in six days, the Cats welcome the Tennessee Volunteers to Rupp Arena tonight. Like the Cats, the Volunteers are in desperation mode after two losses to start conference play (a blowout at the hands of Ole Miss and a close game at Bama). Despite an early season win over then-#23 Witchita State 69-60, the Vols were never really expected to be good this year, and ever since senior forward Jeronne Maymon (a preseason first team All-SEC selection) had to take a medical redshirt due to a knee injury, the expectations have gotten even bleaker. Even more depressingly for Tennessee, this has all happened AFTER their 37-36 loss to #20 Georgetown. If there’s an uglier loss in college basketball, I don’t want to see it. Let’s preview.
Players to Watch:
Jarnell Stokes. You knew this one was coming. It’s been a year since Jimmy Dykes first introduced us to this young stud who didn’t even know how to stretch, and my, how time has flown. A preseason second team All-SEC player, Stokes has done grown up, averaging 11.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and one block per game. However, without Maymon has his front court partner, Stokes has had to take the brunt of Tennessee’s work around the rim, and it’s not enough- the Vols only average 65 PPG. Noel and Cauley-Stein will take turns matching up against Stokes in this battle of the young front courts.
Jordan McRae. The team’s leading scorer and a 6-5 guard from Georgia, McRae has improved his offensive game since last season and has scored 20 points or more in his past three games.
Trae Golden. With 11.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 4.1 APG, Golden is the Noel of Tennessee if we’re talking about well-rounded stat lines. Golden also made the pre-season second team for SEC, and he once compared Kentucky to Hollywood after watching our All-Access special. Last year, Marquis Teague played one of the best defensive games of his UK career by holding Golden (the leading scorer) to only two points. This year, look for Cal to test out Goodwin and Harrow in his continued search for a perimeter defender.
Skylar McBee’s mustache. I just don’t trust it.
Bottom line? It’s more than the Cats SHOULD win this one big. The Cats NEED to win this one big to give Calipari and the fans evidence that they’re finally ready to go all in on this team. If they need extra motivation, just remember Jarnell Stokes’ famous comments about how he was going to win in Rupp Arena. After the Texas A&M game, it’s time to take some pride in defending the home court. Go Cats.
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