Normally preseason women's basketball exhibitions are dress rehearsals for Tennessee. A game against Carson-Newman at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena will play out more like a shakedown cruise. Along with first-year head coach Holly Warlick, the Lady Vols will be breaking in several first-year players and test-driving a high-pressure defensive style of play.
1. While an emphasis on defense isn't new to the Lady Vols, they haven't fully embraced high pressure tactics since the halcyon days of the late 1990s.The roster has players with the wingspan and athleticism suitable for such a style. Pressure defense also requires proper coordination and an aggressive mindset. Those qualities still are to be determined. Warlick believes this style of play gives UT its best chance for success.
2. Warlick isn't new to Tennessee's sideline, having walked that beat for 27 seasons as an assistant. Last season, she essentially played the role of head coach in support of Pat Summitt. Now that it's Warlick's show, she's worth watching for any change in comportment. Furthermore, with new assistants Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law, the staff interaction is bound to be different. The guess here is to expect loads of interaction and energy.
3. Four freshmen will make their debuts. The other first-year player, sophomore Jasmine Phillips, will be sidelined with a left quadriceps strain.Forward Bashaara Graves will be counted on for low-block play. Guard Andraya Carter's athleticism and hustle should make her a fan favorite. Nia Moore's wingspan appears ideal for pressing. That said, watch forward Jasmine Jones, who has had her moments in practice.
4. For those attending tonight's game, particularly those sitting relatively close to the court, be advised to keep your head up and eyes on the action, lest a basketball come whizzing past your head. The Lady Vols also intend to be aggressive on offense, converting their pressure tactics into transition opportunities. The strategy likely will produce turnovers as UT comes to grips with the added pace to its style of play.
5. Carter offered a preview of UT's play tonight by saying, "We want to play hard and give a full effort, play hard and play together ... and I think we want to have fun, have smiles and a lot of energy."Leave it to a freshman to voice a useful blueprint for the entire season. Tennessee's preferred tactics will put a high premium on effort. The payoff, though, could be fun.