The Vols are getting similar production from 6-foot-7 Iowa transfer Tyler Smith (13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 steals per game) and 6-foot-8 Arizona transfer J.P. Prince (12.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game).
South Carolina, 8-7 overall, would be well below .500 without Downey and Fredrick. Tennessee certainly wouldn't be 13-1 and ranked No. 8 nationally without the contributions of Smith and Prince. Clearly, tonight's regional broadcast (Fox Sports South) will provide an opportunity to watch four of the most influential transfers in college hoops on the same stage.
Tennessee's eight-game win streak could be in jeopardy this evening. The Gamecocks trounced the Vols 81-64 at the Colonial Center last year, just one month before the Big Orange played its way into the NCAA Sweet 16.
Moreover, teams that can handle full-court pressure tend to give the Vols fits. Ole Miss committed just 10 turnovers in an 85-83 loss to Tennessee in Knoxville Wednesday night, and South Carolina ranks among the NCAA leaders with an average of just 10.9 turnovers per game.
Like the Vols, the Gamecocks utilize a small starting five – no starter taller than 6-feet-7 – and struggle on the backboards (minus 1.3 in rebound margin compared to UT's minus 2.6). And, like the Vols, the Gamecocks are exceptional from beyond the arc. South Carolina hits 41.4 percent from 3-point range, eclipsing Tennessee's 35.6 mark. The Gamecocks' Brandis Raley-Ross leads the NCAA with a mind-boggling 65.2 percentage (30 of 46) from 3-point range. He has been slowed by a sprained knee but is expected to play tonight.
Tennessee is 1-0 in SEC play after beating Ole Miss. South Carolina is 0-1 in league action but gave No. 13 Vanderbilt fits Wednesday night in Nashville before bowing 80-73.
In addition to Downey and Fredrick, the Gamecocks' starting five consists of 6-7, 208-pound Dominique Archie (10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game), 6-7, 230-pound Mike Holmes (8.9 and 6.2) and 6-6, 185-pound Dwayne Day (4.9 points per game).