By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
Tennessee plays its final Wednesday game of the regular season tonight in Oxford as the Vols prepare to face Ole Miss in front of a sold out crowd at The Pavilion.
It’s been an interesting week for both schools. Following its 82-80 overtime loss to LSU on Saturday Tennessee has been wading through the aftermath of official Anthony Jordan’s old Facebook photo of him holding an LSU shirt being brought to attention. While a heavy topic of conversation for the past 72 hours Head Coach Rick Barnes would suggest his team is focused on the Rebels.
Meanwhile for Ole Miss, eight of its players knelt during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s win over Georgia. The stance was taken in response to a pro-Confederate event happening on campus. First-year Head Coach Kermit Davis defended his players’ actions following the win, and now his team has to turn around and face a top ten team at home that has national title aspirations.
Another contentious point of discussion among Tennessee fans is SEC rival Kentucky’s schedule versus their own. The Wildcats have had a consistent Saturday-Tuesday schedule throughout the course of conference play. Tennessee has three Wednesday games on this year’s slate, including before both Saturday matchups against Kentucky. The other was the Wednesday trip to Nashville where the Vols beat Vanderbilt in overtime before the SEC-Big 12 Challenge victory against West Virginia three days later.
One noticeable theme between the first two Wednesday games for the Vols has been opponents finding a rhythm behind the arc. Vanderbilt drained more than 47 percent of its three-point attempts on January 23. South Carolina hit 14 from deep for over 60 percent two weeks ago. Both were Tennessee wins.
After the midweek clash against Vanderbilt the Vols erased an early double-digit deficit and rolled against West Virginia. After finishing a sweep of the Gamecocks Tennessee fell at Rupp Arena to Kentucky, 86-69.
After the loss in Lexington, the Volunteers put up their lowest scoring total in a 12-point win at home in the rematch with the Commodores. Barnes did note it was mid-February and his team had played Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday and seemed content with his team’s defensive performance in the win.
Is the extra day making that much of a difference for Kentucky? Probably not. The Vols put up a good fight against a healthy Kansas team just two days after knocking off Louisville back in November. One thing that Tennessee has in its favor? The Vols are undefeated at home. And that will be the case on Saturday when Tennessee and Kentucky tip-off for SEC supremacy at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Of course, Barnes won’t be thinking about that until after the bus pulls out of Ole Miss’ campus.