Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn.
Vanderbilt 22 (No. 3 SEC)
Tennessee 81 (No. 8 SEC)
Line: Vanderbilt -2 (O/U 134)
Vanderbilt Players to Watch: G John Jenkins, 6-4 Jr. (20.1 ppg, 49.3% FG, 46.7% 3s); F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7 Sr. (17.4 ppg, 6 rpg, 51.8% FG); C Festus Ezeli, 6-11 Sr. (10.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 54.3% FG). Jenkins, who had 22 points in Tuesday’s 77-66 win over Florida, leads the nation by making four 3-pointers by game. His 115 3s is the fifth-most made in SEC history and his 44.9 career percent from deep is second in SEC history. He leads the SEC in scoring at 20.1 per game.
Tennessee Players to Watch: G Trae Golden, 6-1 So. (13.3 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.8 rpg); F Jeronne Maymon, 6-7 Jr. (12.6 ppg, 8 rpg, 57.1% FG); G Jordan McRae, 6-5 So. (9.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.5 apg). Golden has scored 399 points and has 137 assists. His assists have led to 331 points, meaning he has been involved in 35.3 percent of the Volunteer points this season.
Storylines: Vanderbilt has won five of its last seven with the only two losses coming by a combined 15 points to No. 1 Kentucky. With a win, the Commodores can do no worse than tied with Florida for second place in the SEC. With Florida facing Kentucky on Saturday, there’s a very good chance Vandy would finish with the No. 2 seed in the SEC tourney. Tennessee is suddenly getting NCAA Tournament consideration – and for good reason. The youthful Volunteers have won seven of their last eight and are tied with Alabama for fourth in the league. Since adding Jarnell Stokes, who is averaging nine points and seven rebounds, Tennessee is 9-6. If other bubble teams around the country continue to falter, a win over Vanderbilt might be too much for the selection committee to overlook.
Keys: Vanderbilt hit eight of its 18 3-point shots and held Tennessee to 35.3 percent from the field in a 65-47 victory on Jan. 24. Taylor scored 23 points and grabbed nine boards as the Commodores ran out to a 40-21 halftime lead. Stokes, who should still be a high school senior, had his best games yet in Wednesday’s 74-69 overtime road win over LSU, going 9-for-10 with a career-high 18 points, seven rebounds, a pair of steals and a block. Vanderbilt is the only team in the SEC with four 1,000-point scorers (Jenkins, Taylor, Ezeli and Brad Tinsley). Vanderbilt is 19-3 against unranked opponents and has beaten 13 of the last 14 it has faced. Vandy has swept Tennessee just 12 times during the 90-year history of the rivalry. Vandy leads the SEC in 3-point percentage (40.2) and 3-pointers made (301). The Volunteers allow opponents to shoot 34.5 percent from the 3-point line. Tennessee is third in the SEC, hitting seven 3s per game. The Volunteers have won six in a row at home. If not for a 3-point loss to No. 1 Kentucky, the streak would be at 12. Vandy is 13-5 at home this season, but they have won five of their last six and 10 of their last 12 at Memorial Gym.
The Bottom Line: Not saying Vandy can’t win in Knoxville against a large, hostile crowd and a vastly improved Volunteer squad. This is a toss up. Vandy and Tennessee a toss up? Crazy how things can chance from early in the season to late in college basketball.
The Pick: Tennessee 73, Vanderbilt 70