Tennessee opens NCAA tourney play Saturday against Dayton in Louisville. On the eve of the game, InsideTennessee asked assistant coach Dean Lockwood five questions about the Lady Vols.
No. 5 seed Tennessee (19-11) faces No. 12 Dayton (22-9) at 4 p.m. Eastern (TV: ESPN2) at the KFC Yum! Center. Host No. 4 seed Louisville (27-7) squares off against No. 13 seed Chattanooga (21-10) in the venue’s first game at 1:30 p.m. The winners meet in the second round on Monday. Lockwood handled the scout for Saturday's game.
InsideTennessee: It’s been a long time between games, 16 days to be exact.
Dean Lockwood: We felt every one of them.
IT: First question. What has the preparation been like and what is the level of readiness? And what do mean by feeling every one of the days?
Lockwood: When you are so used to playing a lot – for the last two months we’ve been in the rhythm of playing two games a week and on occasion we’ve had times when we’ve played three – and then in the SEC Tournament we only played one, you’re ready to play more, and now you’re in a situation where you don’t play for 16 days. It has been a good time for us because we’ve really gone back to work on us.
Until the brackets come out, you are working on yourself and trying to get better in the time that you have.
IT: Second question. What does Dayton do defensively and offensively? What challenges do the Flyers present?
Lockwood: Oh, my gosh, they are very good. Offensively, they shoot threes, a very prolific three-point shooting team. They beat Texas A&M by 17 this year. They were 12-22 from the arc in that game. They have some players who can really shoot the ball. We have to defend the arc.
And they also are good off the bounce. They create a lot of those things with their drives and penetration active. That is so much of basketball today is people creating off the dribble, and we are going to really have to guard that well.
What is unique about them is that they have SEC-type size. They have a 6-5 athletic post, a 6-3 athletic post – both of those kids look like what our players see in the SEC season. They are long, they are athletic, and they rebound well. In addition to being shooters – it’s not like last year when we played Green Bay where they can pass and cut and shoot – this team has a legitimate frontline. This is a very good basketball team that we are playing.
Defensively, they play a pack defense, man to man and pressure the ball. They will deny you the ball. They play some 2-3 zone, and they will do some pressing. They mix it up.
IT: The Oklahoma City regional is a stacked bracket, and nothing is guaranteed, not even a first round win.
Lockwood: You’re not kidding.
IT: Third question. What is the message to the players before tipoff? Because they have demonstrated and openly said that they don’t always take other teams seriously enough.
Lockwood: That speaks to our level of immaturity at times and to what we’ve dealt with on and off all season. Quite simply, I hope at this point (when a loss ends the season) that we have learned our lesson. We have talked about Dayton a lot and our level of respect for them. Our players have seen it on video. They are very well aware that this is a very capable, potent team that can score points very easily.
At this stage, if you’ve played 30 games and you’ve had tough losses as we have had – in addition to four top 10 wins – if you don’t have that respect (for an NCAA tourney opponent), there is not anything, there are no words Holly (Warlick) can say. At this point, you have to know. The savvy people right now know. Everybody in this thing is darn good. Everybody. Everybody has been a conference champion or close to it or had big wins and has good players.
We have a very healthy respect for Dayton, and we are going to have to play our butts off.
IT: Fourth question. The last time Tennessee was a five seed, it was 2009. And the Lady Vols lost in the first round to Ball State in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The players on this team were in middle school or just starting high school. Are they even aware of that game or is it just so long ago – comparatively for young adults – that it’s not on their radar?
Lockwood: I can’t tell you for sure, but we haven’t brought that up. That’s part of history that I don’t know if bringing that up is something that would resonate with them. I don’t think that that has any bearing on this team or would have. We have other examples that are closer to home of underperforming, not playing to our best. And then we have those banner wins. I think that’s more pertinent to them and resonates more deeply with them than something that happened back in 2009.
IT: Another win gets Tennessee to 20 and would be the 41st consecutive time that the Lady Vol program notched that milestone.
Lockwood: Yes, that is one of the benchmarks of a good team.
IT: Fifth question. What does Tennessee have to do on both sides of the ball to win Saturday?
Lockwood: We have to defend the arc and part of doing that is being disruptive. We have to disrupt their offense and their rhythm. If their guards are allowed to run their offense and do what they do well, they can be very good. We have to bring great perimeter pressure.
We are going to have to rebound the ball well at both ends. Our defense and rebounding are big. One of their players, 6-5 post Saicha Grant-Allen, is getting almost four offensive rebounds a game. They are getting plenty of second chances, and that is one of the reasons that they’ve been good. They get a lot of possessions via their offensive rebounding.
So, perimeter pressure and rebounding at both ends are very, very big. And then I think for us is just being very efficient. We have to take care of the ball and do what we do well. We can’t be sloppy with possessions. We can’t squander possessions. We have to be very, very effective in doing what we do.
Tennessee press conference