Scouting Tennessee

News, notes and quotes on No. 1 KU's matchup at No. 16 Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena today. Tipoff is 3:30 p.m. on CBS with Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg calling the action.

SCOUTING TENNESSEE

Tennessee (11-2) returns four starters off last year's 21-13 team. The Volunteers will be without starting senior forward Tyler Smith, junior guard Melvin Goins, sophomore guard Cameron Tatum and junior center Brian Williams. Smith was dismissed from the team Friday, while Tatum, Williams and Goins have been suspended indefinitely following their arrest (along with Smith) on Jan. 1 for gun possession and other counts after a traffic stop in Knoxville.

The Vols, though, crushed Charlotte, 88-71, on Wednesday without the four players. They've won three straight and seven of their last eight. UT's only two losses have come to Purdue (73-72) at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 23 and at USC (77-55) on Dec. 19.

Some of Tennessee's victories include a 57-53 win over DePaul on Nov. 22 and a 66-59 win at Memphis on Dec. 31.

UT, which is 35-2 in non-conference home games under head coach Bruce Pearl, averages 81.9 points per game while allowing 63.6. The Vols shoot 48.3 percent from the field, 33.7 percent from beyond the arc, and 69.1 percent at the free-throw line. They're holding foes to just 38.7 percent shooting and 28.9 percent from three-point range, while out-rebounding opponents 37.3 to 33.9 boards per game. A quick, pressing, team-oriented squad, Tennessee averages 9.6 steals and 17.3 assists per game.

Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson leads UT with 13.5 points a game, while contributing a team-best 24 treys on 42.9 percent three-point shooting. Senior forward/center Wayne Chism is the only other player averaging in double digits with 11.5 points per game, while adding a team-high 5.8 rebounds and 13 blocks. He's followed in scoring by senior guard Bobby Maze (7.9 ppg, No. 3 with 38 assists), senior guard J.P. Prince (6.3 ppg, No. 2 with 41 assists), freshman guard Skylar McBee (4.5 ppg), sophomore guard/forward Renaldo Woolridge (4.1 ppg) and freshman forward Kenny Hall (3.8 ppg).

While the All-SEC Smith was a big part of Tennessee's attack (No. 2 on team with 11.7 ppg, No. 2 in assists with 44, No. 2 with 17 steals and No. 3 with 4.7 rpg), the Vols are ready to move on.

"Everybody feels disappointed about it, but Tyler's still going to be family to us and we're still going to have him on our mind," Chism told utsports.com. "But we've got to move onto the next game and worry about our season. We've got to keep moving forward."

That includes playing without Tatum, Williams and Goins as well.

"I wouldn't take this at any other time," Chism said. "I'd rather take this now. Having Kansas coming in now and knowing what we just went through and seeing how we came together against Charlotte, if we keep that going, we can be something special. I'd rather have it now than later."
 
Pearl hopes his team seizes the moment against No. 1 KU.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Pearl said. "It will take something very, very special to beat Kansas. But that's what we're setting out to do."

SELF ON VOLS

KU coach Bill Self knows the Vols will be a tough matchup, even without Smith and his three suspended teammates.

"Mike Anderson (Missouri head coach) and Bruce probably do the best job of anyone that I'm aware of, of taking their personnel, fitting it into what they do and not skipping a beat," Self said. "There are times when Missouri or Tennessee's leading scorer is out of the game and you don't even realize he's out because of the way they play with interchangeable parts.

"They obviously will miss their full complement of players, but they certainly didn't play like it against Charlotte. It will give Scotty Hopson a chance to take over and do what he's capable of doing. He's their best prospect and they'll probably go to Wayne Chism more, which will be hard to guard for us. From a depth standpoint they wont be as deep, but from a team standpoint I don't see them changing much at all."

READY FOR REMATCH

Tennessee and Kansas have played just once before. That came last season on Jan. 3 in Allen Fieldhouse, a 92-85 KU victory over the nationally ranked Vols. Sherron Collins led KU with 26 points and nine assists, while Cole Aldrich had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Smith paced UT with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Chism added 17 points, eight rebounds and a school record-tying six blocked shots.

The victory was KU's first signature win that season.

KU sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor said that game was a turning point.

"I think it proved to some people that we could beat some of the best teams," Taylor said. "I think some people underestimated us a little bit last year, because we were so young and people didn't know what we had."

GEARING FOR BIG 12 PLAY

Of course, Self dearly wants a win today. But he knows the real season begins when KU kicks off conference play at Nebraska next Wednesday. Self calls the Big 12 "the best that's it's been since I've been here."

"No matter what happens Sunday, it's not as important as what happens Wednesday," Self said. "I've always felt that non-conference games are not as important as conference games."

12 YEARS AGO TODAY

Exactly 12 years ago on Jan. 10, 1998 in the 100th season of KU basketball, Roy Williams' Jayhawks beat Texas at Austin, 102-72, behind Paul Pierce's 31 points and 10 rebounds. The win was Williams' 266th, setting an NCAA record for most wins in the first 10 seasons of a coaching career.

Billy Thomas added 27 points for Kansas, while Lester Earl scored 15. Luke Axtell paced Texas with 18 points. Axtell would later transfer to Kansas and finished his college career here.

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