Conventional wisdom would say that Tennessee should be a solid favorite for tonight’s meeting against Kentucky in Knoxville.
After shaking off the shock of their home-court loss to Gonzaga, Tennessee wandered aimlessly through most of its next game against Georgia before pulling out a win. You’d think that would put them on the right track. And you’d think that a program that had won 36 straight at home before losing to Gonzaga wouldn’t be even close to losing a second straight at home.
And maybe they won’t be.
But I keep thinking that Kentucky has played well in Knoxville of late. And this year’s matchup is nothing close to the mismatch the teams had last season in Thompson-Boling Arena, when UK had just lost Patrick Patterson and Tennessee was the top-ranked team in the nation.
UT was fortunate to get away with a win in that game, and I think the Cats will bring them a fight tonight.
UK has been edging closer to its opponents in these tough road games. After getting blown out by North Carolina, they hung tough at Louisville.
Once again tonight, though, the Wildcats are going to have to have solid nights from Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris.
And as it was at Louisville, protecting the ball will be the key.
I think it’s going to be another tight game — unless Tennessee gets really hot or UK gets really flustered against the Vols’ pressure. If UK wins the rebounding battle, it wins the game and gets the early advantage in an SEC chase that right now, doesn’t feature a single nationally ranked team.