Hoops Preview: #12 Tennessee vs. Arkansas

Hoops Preview: #12 Tennessee vs. Arkansas

Twelfth-ranked Tennessee hits the hardwood in Thompson-Boling Arena for the final time this season on Tuesday, taking on Arkansas for Senior Night at 9 p.m. ET.
Fans can catch Tuesday’s game on ESPN2 and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (analyst) and Marty Smith (reporter) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.
Tennessee (21-8, 10-6 SEC) is coming off a 40-point home win over South Carolina on Saturday, 85-45. Josiah-Jordan James returned after missing four straight games due to injury to score a team-high 18 points, while Zakai Zeigler had his fifth points/assists double-double of the season with 13 points and a career-high 11 assists.
The Vols have won five of their last seven meetings with Arkansas and split the pair of meetings last year. Tennessee has won four straight home games against the Razorbacks, including a 78-74 win last season—also contested on Senior Day.
Up next, Tennessee finishes its regular season Saturday on the road, taking on Auburn for the second time this season. Tip off is set for 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.
• Tennessee leads its all-time series with Arkansas, 24-22, dating to 1936.
• The Vols own a 15-4 advantage when the series is contested in Knoxville, with Tennessee winning each of the last four meetings at Thompson-Boling Arena.
• UT has won five of the last seven meetings overall in this series.
• Rick Barnes is 3-2 in head-to-head coaching matchups with Eric Musselman.
• Tuesday marks the fourth straight meeting in this series for which Tennessee has been ranked No. 16 or higher in the AP Top 25.
• Tennessee will conduct a Senior Day ceremony at midcourt prior to tipoff Tuesday. This is the second year in a row that the Vols’ Senior Day opponent is Arkansas.
• No strangers to raucous crowds, Arkansas and Tennessee rank third and fourth in the nation, respectively, in average home attendance this season.
• The Vols remain at No. 3 in the NCAA’s NET ratings after holding steady at No. 2 from Jan. 3 through Feb. 8. Tennessee has six Q1 wins.
• Tennessee and Baylor are the only teams in the country that own at least three wins over teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NET ratings.
• Tennessee this season has a program-record 12 wins by a margin of 20 points or more. That includes five such victories over SEC foes.
• During SEC play, Tennessee leads the league in scoring defense (58.8 ppg), assists per game (16.7) and assist/turnover ratio (1.54).
• Zakai Zeigler’s 160 total assists lead the SEC and rank second nationally among underclassmen. He already has the 10th-most assists ever by a Vol in a season. NBA Draft pick Kennedy Chandler finished with 161 assists in 34 games last year.
• Josiah-Jordan James returned from a four-game injury absence Saturday and sparked a dominant win over South Carolina, scoring a team-high 18 points in 21 minutes.
• The Vols haven’t played a game with the rotation fully healthy since Feb. 8.
• For the 14th straight week, the Volunteers own the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per KenPom, allowing only 86.9 points per 100 possessions.
• Tennessee owns Division I’s best 3-point defense (.247), second-best field-goal percentage defense (.359) and the nation’s third-best scoring defense (56.7 ppg).
• 12 times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less. No other Division I team has more than 10 such performances.
• Only four teams have reached the 70-point mark against these Vols.
• Only eight opposing players have scored 20 or more points against the Vols this season.
• In SEC home games, Tennessee forces 13.9 turnovers per game and owns a +4.3 turnover margin. SEC teams are shooting .362 from the field and .269 from 3-point range this season at Thompson-Boling Arena.
• Arkansas (19-10, 8-8 SEC) is coming off an 86-83 loss at No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in a game that it led for more than half of regulation.
• The Razorbacks started 1-5 in SEC play but have now won seven of their past 10 conference games.
• Currently ranked No. 14 in the NET rankings, Arkansas is 3-7 in Quadrant 1 games—owning wins over San Diego State at a neutral site, Texas A&M at home and at Kentucky.
• Arkansas is 2-7 in road games this season, with the lone wins coming at South Carolina and Kentucky.
• Consensus top-three recruit in the nation freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. has provided a boost for the Razorbacks, returning to the lineup after missing 13 straight games due to injury. In total, Smith Jr. has missed 19 games this season due to injury.
• Smith Jr., who is averaging 20.0 ppg over Arkansas’s last three games, saw just a combined 21 minutes of action in his first two games back against Mississippi State and Texas A&M on Feb. 11 and Feb. 15, but is averaging 33.3 minutes during the last three games.
• Freshman guard Anthony Black, another projected lottery pick, is also one of five Razorbacks to average double-figure scoring with 12.7 ppg and a team-leading 4.3 apg. Black was ranked as the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2022 by 247Sports.
• Junior guard Ricky Council IV, a Wichita State transfer, is Arkansas’ leading scorer at 16.8 ppg. Council IV was the 2022 AAC Sixth Man of the Year at Wichita State.
• Through the games of Feb. 26, Arkansas ranks No. 15 in KenPom.com’s ratings. The Razorbacks rank No. 11 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 49 in adjusted offensive efficiency.
• No. 13 Tennessee defeated No. 14 Arkansas, 78-74, at Thompson-Boling Arena on March 5, 2022.
• With the victory, head coach Rick Barnes earned the 750th win of his head coaching career.
• Tennessee wrapped up a perfect 16-0 regular season at home with a terrific 3-point shooting performance. The Big Orange connected on 12-of-18 (.667) from deep and made 23-of-50 (.460) from the floor.
• Kennedy Chandler was a big part of UT’s 3-point shooting success, sinking 5-of-6 (.833) from deep.
• Josiah-Jordan James totaled 12 points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block.
• Santiago Vescovi played 37 minutes and was 3-of-4 on 3-point attempts.
• Zakai Zeigler was a spark off the bench, finishing with 13 points, a then-career-high six assists and five rebounds.
• Arkansas made a furious comeback in the second half and was propelled by 16 offensive rebounds. JD Notae led the Razorback offense with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
• Tennessee shot out of the gates, taking the lead 13 seconds into the game and never surrendering it. UT scored 13 points before the first media timeout. The Vols shot 6-of-7 from 3-point range in the first 15 minutes of the half. Overall, the Big Orange connected on 50 percent of their field goals in the half, going into the locker room with a 50-29 lead.
• Eric Musselman has said that some of his approach to marketing comes from popular former Tennessee head coach Ray Mears.
• Musselman’s father, the late Bill Musselman, was a longtime NCAA, ABA and NBA head coach who played collegiately for Mears at Wittenberg College in Ohio, enrolling in 1958.
• Bill Musselman, and later Eric, took note of Mears penchant for showmanship and entertainment to boost program interest and generate fan support.
• Just as senior wing Josiah-Jordan James returned from injury Saturday, fellow senior wing Tyreke Key was sidelined with a right ankle injury. Key was inactive for the Vols’ win over South Carolina.
• As injuries have limited Tennessee’s depth this month, true freshman guard B.J. Edwards has seen meaningful minutes in recent games vs. Missouri, at Kentucky, at Texas A&M and vs. South Carolina.
• Spanning the last five games, Uros Plavsic is shooting 11 for 12 from the field (.917).
• Over the last five games, the Vols are shooting an uncharacteristic .652 from the free-throw line (58 of 89). While UT has shot 89 free throws, its opponents have shot 113 and made 82.
• Tennessee has dealt with a barrage of injuries throughout February, and the team’s 3-5 record this month reflects that.
• Three key players have combined to miss nine games this month, as Josiah-Jordan James (ankle) missed four, Julian Phillips (hip) missed four and Tyreke Key (ankle) has missed one.
• When active, James, Phillips and Key combine to account for 27.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
• That trio has 48 starts between them this season and all rank among the team’s top six scorers.
• Over Tennessee’s last three games, Vols sophomore Jahmai Mashack is averaging 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
• His 31.0 minutes played per game during that span is second on the team, trailing only Santiago Vescovi.
• Mashack has made 4 of 7 3-point attempts (.571) over the last three games and owns a 4.0 assist/turnover ratio.
• He scored a career-high 16 points at Kentucky Feb. 18 and more recently scored 14 Saturday vs. South Carolina.
• Alabama’s Brandon Miller is a National Freshman of the Year contender and projected NBA Lottery Pick. When Miller was guarded by Mashack on Feb. 15, he was 0-for-6 from the field with four points. Against other defenders, Miller scored 11 on 4-of-5 shooting.
• During league play, Santiago Vescovi ranks second in the SEC in both 3-point percentage (.369) and 3-point makes per game (2.53).
• While battling illness last week at No. 25 Texas A&M, he recorded his first career double-double and flirted with a triple-double, totaling 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while also grabbing three steals.

Vols G Santiago Vescovi / Credit: UT Athletics

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