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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 15, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bridgestone Arena (20,000) -- Nashville, Tennessee. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: UT 13-3, Alabama 14-3. Away Record: UT 4-7, Alabama 4-8. Neutral Record: UT 3-1, Alabama 2-0. Conference Record: UT 11-7, Alabama 12-6. Series Record: Alabama leads, 75-66.
GAME NOTES: The quarterfinal round of the 2013 SEC Tournament continues on Friday afternoon, as the fifth-seeded Tennessee Volunteers take on the fourth- seeded Alabama Crimson Tide at Bridgestone Arena.
The winner will advance to Saturday's semifinals to face the winner of the LSU/Florida matchup.
Tennessee is the SEC's hottest team, as it has won nine of its last 10 games, including a convincing second-round victory over Mississippi State on Thursday afternoon, 69-53. The Vols hot streak has allowed them to improve to 20-11 this season, and they have proven to be a serious contender for the tournament crown.
Of the four teams that received double-byes into the quarterfinals, Alabama is the one coming in with the most question marks. It was bailed out by a game- winning half-court shot to win its regular-season finale, 61-58, against Georgia last Saturday to improve to 20-11 overall, but it had lost three of its previous four leading up to that matchup. Without a strong non-conference resume', the Tide will almost certainly need a deep run in this event to be considered for the NCAA Tournament field.
The Tide hold a 75-66 edge in the all-time series over Tennessee, which includes wins in three of the past four meetings. The season series was split this year, with each team winning on the road.
The Vols found themselves up by 16 points at the half against Mississippi State in the second round and cruised from there, winning by that same margin. They were able to outshoot the Bulldogs from the field, 51.8 percent to 34.5 percent, and they were paced by a 17-point effort from Jordan McRae. Trae Golden netted 15 points on 6-of-8 from the field, while Jarnell Stokes (nine rebounds, three steals) and Quinton Chievous chipped in 10 points apiece to the winning effort. On the season, Tennessee has a rather modest scoring attack, putting up 66.9 ppg on 43.6 percent from the field, but it complements it well with strong defensive pressure, holding teams to just 63.2 ppg. McRae is the top scoring option with 16.2 ppg, while Stokes (12.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg) can go toe-to-toe with any big man in the league. Golden brings 12.2 ppg and a team-best 4.0 apg to the table.
Alabama saw its 13-point, second-half advantage disappear down the stretch, as Georgia came storming back to tie the game with under a minute remaining before Trevor Releford's half-court prayer was answered to secure the all- important double-bye for the Crimson Tide. Releford finished with 19 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range, and the SEC All-Defensive Team selection also swiped three steals. Rodney Cooper was the only other player in double figures in the winning effort with 11 points. The Tide ranks in the lower-half of the SEC in scoring offense with just 63.7 ppg, but they are saved by an outstanding defense that surrenders only 59.7 ppg to opponents. Releford scores 15.6 ppg on 49 percent from the field and racks up more than two steals per contest, while Trevor Lacey (11.9 ppg) and Cooper (10.7 ppg) are also in the midst of solid campaigns.
With two premier defenses matching up in this one, expect points to come at a premium. Alabama has the perimeter defenders to slow down the Vols up top, but it doesn't have an equivalent answer for Stokes in the paint. That combined with Tennessee's hot hand should result in a berth for the Vols in the semifinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 64, Alabama 60
03/15 10:42:05 ET