Good guard!

The Tennessee Vols are getting an up-close look at some of college basketball's finest guards this season. That trend will continue when Alabama A&M invades Thompson-Boling Arena tonight for a 7:30 tip-off.

The Bulldogs have a modest 2-3 record but they boast one of the NCAA's premier backcourt players in Obie Trotter. The 6-1, 180-pounder was the Southwest Athletic Conference's Player of the Year in 2004-05, and he has stepped up his game even more this season. He leads the nation with 6.0 steals per game. He's also averaging 14.8 points, 4.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He burned Vanderbilt for 27 points on Dec. 17.

Backcourt mate Joe Martin is no slouch, either. The 6-4, 210-pounder ranks fourth nationally with 12.6 rebounds per game – an amazing number for a guard. He also averages 13.2 points per game.

Trotter and Martin are the latest in an impressive line of quality guards the Vols have faced this season. Here's a brief recap:

Game 1 saw East Tennessee State's Tim Smith visit Thompson-Boling Arena. Though only 5-feet-8, he very nearly opted for the NBA Draft following his junior season. He showed NBA-type skills against Tennessee, scoring 22 second-half points en route to a 26-point effort vs. the Vols.

Game 2 saw the Vols face a different style of guard in Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwayne Mitchell. Whereas Smith is a little guy with speed, Mitchell is a big guy with power. He produced 19 points and 20 (no misprint) rebounds against UT.

Game 4 saw Tennessee take on Murray State's Trey Pearson, the preseason pick for Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year. The Vols did a great job on Pearson, limiting him to 8 points, far below his 19.5 average.

Game 6 saw the Big Orange try to corral Texas' Daniel Gibson, who was tabbed National Freshman of the Year in 2004-05 and is on the 50-man watch list for the prestigious Wooden Award, given annually to college basketball's premier player. Gibson was injured early, played just nine minutes and scored just 2 points. Talented freshman backup A.J. Abrams came off the bench to score 19, however.

Game 7 saw Tennessee face Oklahoma State's JamesOn Curry, who is on the watch list for the Wooden Award AND the Naismith Award. Curry burned the Vols for 16 points and 7 assists. Backcourt mate Byron Eaton, a gifted freshman, also scored 16 for the Cowboys.

Obie Trotter may lack the national reputation of guys like Gibson and Curry but he'll provide a stern test for Tennessee's backcourt. Of course, the Vols probably are used to that by now.


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