Will the Tigers be shell-shocked and easy pickings? Or will they rally around their new coach and play their best game of the season? Who knows?
SUB-PLOT NO. 2: Chris Lofton vs. LSU. The Vol guard is on a roll, hitting 50 percent (31 of 62) on 3-point attempts over the past six games. However, he has struggled mightily against LSU in the past.
Hounded by 6-6 Garrett Temple (the man who will be guarding him today), Lofton scored a career-low 2 points on his only previous trip to Baton Rouge in 2006. He sank just 1 of 7 floor shots that evening, going 0 for 4 from beyond the arc.
Lofton also struggled vs. the Tigers in 2005 at Knoxville (3 for 10 overall, 2 for 8 from 3, 8 total points) and in 2007 at Knoxville (1 for 5 overall, 1 for 3 from 3, 8 points). His only good outing against LSU occurred in last year's SEC Tournament, when he hit 8 of 16 shots (3 of 8 from 3) en route to 21 points.
Lofton's career numbers vs. LSU show him sinking just 13 of 38 from the floor (34.2 percent), 6 of 23 from beyond the arc (26.1 percent) and averaging a mere 9.8 points per game.
SUB-PLOT NO. 3: Marcus Thornton vs. the SEC. LSU's 6-4, 190-pound junior guard is averaging 19.8 points per game overall but a sizzling 24.4 ppg vs. SEC opponents this season. He scorched Auburn for 38 points, most by an SEC player all season. Vol head man Bruce Pearl calls him "a shooting machine."
SUB-PLOT NO. 4: Pearl vs. LSU. Tennessee's head coach has a winning record against nine of 11 SEC opponents. The only exceptions are LSU (1-2) and Kentucky (2-3). Moreover, Pete Maravich Assembly Center is one of only three SEC arenas at which Pearl has never won.
SUB-PLOT NO. 5: No rest for the weary. The Vols are coming off an emotionally draining come-from-behind defeat of Florida on Tuesday night. Conversely, LSU had no mid-week game and hasn't played since losing 81-72 at Alabama last Saturday.
SUB-PLOT NO. 6: The deja vu factor. The last time the Vols traveled to Baton Rouge (an 88-74 loss 2006), they were done in by a rangy 6-9 freshman named Tyrus Thomas (7 of 7 from the field, 17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 blocks).
Today the Vols will face another rangy freshman in 6-10, 190-pound Anthony Randolph. He's averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Pearl calls him "a McDonald's All-American and a top, top kid."