All of this seems to suggest the game will be won from the perimeter, yet that was not the case when the teams met Feb. 1 in Knoxville. Lofton made just 1 of 4 tries from beyond the arc, while Foster was 1 of 7. Moreover, the Vols sank just 4 of 18 as a team (22.2 percent) and Vandy canned just 4 of 20 (20 percent).
Although viewed as a finesse team, the Commodores are stronger inside than usual. Their front line features 6-9, 250-pound Julian Terrell (10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds), 6-7, 225-pound Derrick Byars (11.9 points, 3.7 rebounds) and 6-7, 215-pound DeMarre Carroll (11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds). All three hurt Tennessee in the earlier meeting. Terrell (6 of 8, 12 points), Carroll (8 of 12, 16 points) and Byars (5 of 8, 12 points) combined to hit 19 of 28 shots and score 40 points that day. Moreover, Vandy outrebounded Tennessee 43-33 in the earlier meeting.
Vol coach Bruce Pearl said it best: "Vanderbilt is a big, strong, physical team that will be hard to beat."
Tennessee (20-6 overall, 11-4 SEC) has lost three of its last four games – all to teams battling for bids to the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt can relate. The Commodores (16-10, 7-8) could get to 18-11 overall and 9-9 in SEC play if they beat the Vols today, then win a first-round game in the SEC Tournament. That might be good enough to warrant a bid to The Dance.
"Vanderbilt is an in-state rival that enjoys beating Tennessee very much," Pearl noted. "They're playing for their tournament lives. We knew in these last few games we were meeting teams that were playing for good NCAA seeding or fighting to get into the tournament."
Today will be more of the same.