No one knows the answer, of course, but two tell-tale signs could be evident early:
1. Are the Vols missing perimeter shots?
2. Are the Vols making turnovers?
If the answer to both questions is yes, Tennessee probably is doomed to another pitiful effort along the lines of the Georgia game.
If the answer to both questions is no, Tennessee probably is going to give the Commodores a stern test.
Now that mid-term freshman Jarnell Stokes has combined with junior Jeronne Maymon to give the Vols an imposing inside game, opponents are having to double-team the post. This creates open shots on the perimeter. When the Vols miss these shots, as was the case against Georgia (2 of 15 from 3-point range), they are hard to watch. When the Vols make a reasonable number of these shots, as was the case against Connecticut (6 of 18 from 3), they are hard to beat.
Thus, the key to tonight's game in Nashville is simple: When Tennessee's big men kick the ball outside, do the perimeter players make shots or make turnovers?
"Whether we have great low post guys or not, we want to be able to pound the ball inside," head coach Cuonzo Martin explained. "We want to get inside to the free throw line and make those bigs defend. We're going to do it the whole night for our guards to be able to have space, set up and make plays when the opportunity presents itself."
Just as important as making shots is avoiding turnovers. Tennessee committed 20 at Georgia and lost to a very bad basketball team. Tennessee committed just 10 against UConn and beat a very good basketball team.
"I think we had eight in the first half and finished with 10," Martin said. "That's where you give yourself a chance to win, by taking care of the ball and being under control."
Tennessee stayed under control versus UConn because sophomore point guard Trae Golden stayed under control. Although he went 0 for 4 from the floor and scored a mere 2 points, he ran the offense smoothly — recording 6 assists and just 2 turnovers in 36 minutes against the Huskies.
"I thought Trae probably had one of his better games all season," Martin said. "Even though he didn't score much, I thought he did a great job of running our team in a lot of areas. He was communicating with the guys.... I thought he did a tremendous job of really executing."
If Golden and the Vols execute as well tonight as they did versus UConn, Tennessee has a good chance to upset the Commodores. If they perform the way they did at Georgia (6 assists, 20 turnovers), the bus ride from Nashville back to Knoxville could be a long one.
NOTES: The Vols bring a 9-10 overall record and a 1-3 SEC record into tonight's game. Vandy comes in 14-5 and 4-1.... Commodore coach Kevin Stallings (Collinsville) and Vol coach Cuonzo Martin (East St. Louis) are Illinois natives who played college ball for Gene Keady at Purdue. Stallings represented the Boilermakers from 1980-82, Martin from 1991-95.... In SEC play, Vandy (59.0 points) and Tennessee (60.0) rank 1-2 in scoring defense.... The Vols are holding SEC opponents to a league-low 25.8 percent success rate on 3-point shots but Vandy ranks No. 11 nationally in 3-point success at 40.5 percent.... Down 31-42 with 13:02 left last February in Nashville, Tennessee closed the game on a 29-9 run to beat Vanderbilt 60-51. The Vols also scored the game's final 11 points that evening.... Vandy's projected starting lineup consists of four seniors and a junior. The four seniors are 6-foot-3, 210-pound Brad Tinsley (9.8 points, 4.4 assists per game), 6-foot-7, 225-pound Jeffery Taylor (17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds), 6-foot-8, 230-pound Lance Goulbourne (10.2 points, 7.4 rebounds) and 6-foot-11, 255-pound senior Festus Ezeli (7.6 points, 6.7 rebounds). The junior is John Jenkins, a 6-4, 220-pounder who leads the SEC in scoring at 19.8 points per game.... Jenkins is projected as the No. 22 pick in the 2012 draft by NBADraft.net. Taylor is pegged to go 37th and Ezeli 53rd.... Tonight's game tips off at 6:02 Central (7:02 Eastern) and will be nationally televised by ESPNU.