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Game Preview: Tennessee Volunteers

Kentucky looks to bounce back in a big way on Saturday night as they welcome in the 5th ranked Tennessee Volunteers to Rupp Arena for a huge SEC matchup. After a heartbreaking overtime loss on Wednesday, the 'Cats could use a quad-one win like this to boost their resume and team morale.

Rick Barnes' team has been a pretty dominant force this year in college basketball. After a Sweet 16 exit last year in the NCAA Tournament, the Vols brought in a couple of transfers and some freshmen to reload the roster. They sit at 15-5 and 5-2 in conference play with wins over Wisconsin, Illinois, Ole Miss, and Alabama. They also have close losses to UNC, Kansas, and Purdue. After a tough home loss to South Carolina on Tuesday, Tennessee will also be looking for a bounce-back win with theirs coming on the road.

The Volunteers are known for their defense. They give up 66 points per game which is tabbed for 44th in the nation. As always, they are very physical and playing a team like this will be a great test for the 'Cats. But the reason why the Vols are so good this year is due to Northern Colorado transfer, Dalton Knecht. The 6'6 senior averages 20.1 points per game and is averaging up to 28 points per game in SEC play. Knecht has been dominant in every area of the game. He can shoot, he can slash, and can play great defense as well. Guarding him needs to be priority number one for Kentucky's already sub-par defense. Outside of Knecht, the offensive firepower is not top-tier. Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Ziegler are two guards to keep an eye on, but every possession will be run through Dalton Knecht. If the 'Cats can slow him down then it will lighten the load defensively. That will be a huge task for this rather bad defense that Kentucky brings.

Priority number one needs to be slowing down Knecht. If he gets going, I do not know what else can done to keep up. Offensively, Kentucky needs to play mistake-free basketball. Limit the turnovers and shoot the ball. No word yet on the status of DJ Wagner, but hopefully he will give it a go and provide Kentucky some depth at the guard position. Without him, Reed Sheppard will run the offense again. Kentucky is 0-2 this year without DJ Wagner, so it would be crucial if he doesn't suit up.

This game tonight is the biggest home game of the year for the 'Cats. Two top-ten teams. Sold out arena. A win tonight could end up being pivotal for seeding and the overall success of this team. A loss would result into losing 4 of the last 7 games which is far from what anyone expected out of this team.

The game will start at 8:30 PM on ESPN following the North Carolina-Duke game.

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