The Volunteers basketball team has been like the narrator and Tyler Durden in Fight Club; that is to say, the team seems to have multiple personalities. Not many people will understand how a team can beat Pitt and Villanova away from home, yet lose to Oakland and College of Charleston at home.
This is probably due to the ongoing investigation of the UT Athletic Department and Bruce Pearl; at some point, there just becomes too many distractions. However, I believe the team can get back on the right track towards a surefire NCAA bid with a win against UConn.
Connecticut is a team depending more on the success of one person—Kemba Walker—than any team in the country outside of BYU. Tennessee has shown that it's weakness is definitely not in defending good guards.
Villanova and Pitt were both teams that heavily rely on guards, and the Vols were able to shut them down. Where Tennessee has had its problems is guarding big men, but the interior D seems to be on the rise after Trey Thompkins was shut down Tuesday night. If Tennessee wins, they will have kept the score pretty low and held Walker to a low field goal percentage.
However, Tennessee also has to have a huge day offensively from Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris. Someone is going to have to break down UConn's defense, and if Hopson or Harris cannot create, it'll be a long day offensively. It probably won't require many points to win, but the Vols need to knock down some shots, especially if they're open.
Bruce Pearl's teams always get up for big games, and this one will be no exception. UConn is a good team, but not a great team. Relying on one star will only get you so far. Tennessee will look for Walker to shoot a lot of contested shots with a low percentage and hold the Huskies to one shot per possession. The Vols will win a hotly contested defensive battle in one of the marquee matchups of the weekend.
Prediction: Tennessee 58, Connecticut 52