"Vanderbilt's probably the toughest preparation in the conference because they run the Princeton offense," UT coach Bruce Pearl says. "They're as patient as anybody in the league, and patience sometimes can really bother an up-tempo team
"It's a very, very difficult system to go up against. It's extremely challenging and one that will put our team defense to the test. It's a game you'd like to have a few extra days to get ready for."
Vanderbilt (12-5 overall, 3-3 SEC) is so effective running the Princeton offense that it shares the league lead with just 211 turnovers. Oddly enough, the up-tempo Vols (14-3, 5-1) also have committed just 211.
The Commodores have beaten Tennessee three times in a row, including an 88-63 annihilation Jan. 8, 2005, the last time the teams met in Knoxville. The ‘Dores set a school record that day by making 18 shots from 3-point range (out of 32 attempts).
Vandy is draining treys at an impressive clip again this season. Based on league play only, the Commodores lead the SEC in 3-pointers made (8.33 per game) and 3-point percentage (44.2).
Despite Vanderbilt's success from outside, it would be inaccurate to characterize the Dores as strictly a "perimeter team." They have a solid frontline in 6-9 senior Julian Terrell, 6-7 junior Derrick Byars and 6-7 sophomore DeMarre Carroll.
Terrell, a Nashville native, averages 10.1 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game. He has 107 blocked shots in his career and needs just two more to claim second place on Vandy's all-time list.
"Terrell's an inside guy that can definitely bang," Pearl said. "I'm really impressed with him, his athleticism, his size (250 pounds) and his strength."
Byars, a Memphis native who began his career at the University of Virginia, averages 11.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and a team-high 3.7 assists per game. Pearl calls him "a powerful athlete" who is "shooting the 3 ball really well right now."
Carroll, meanwhile, averages 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and is hitting 53.7 percent of his shots.
Vandy's shooting guard, 6-6 Shan Foster , averages a team-best 15.9 points per game and is hitting 50 percent (22 of 44) on 3-point shots in league play. Sharing the point guard duties are Mario Moore and Alex Gordon. Both stand 5-11 and both gave UT fits last season.
Moore hit 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range in last year's game at Knoxville and finished with 18 points. Gordon scorched UT in the rematch at Nashville, draining 8 of 11 shots (5 of 7 from 3-point range) en route to a career-high 30 points as the Dores won 67-62.
If Vandy is hitting its 3's tonight, Tennessee could be in for a real struggle.
"Right now Vanderbilt is shooting the ball from 3 at a 44-percent clip in SEC play," Pearl noted. "They've got two guys in Byars and Foster that are shooting it extremely well. That spreads you out, and that's exactly what that Princeton offense is designed to do."