Scouting Report: Tennessee

Dylan Burkhardt

Tobias_crop_340x234[1]I fired up ESPN3 to watch film of Tennessee’s game versus Florida in the SEC Quarterfinals last week. The Vols lost the game, 85-74, but did manage to hang with the Gators until the last several minutes. Here’s a closer look at Tennessee as well as some video footage (provided by Josh Houchin) from that game.

Tennessee is a team full of scrappers and fighters. The Vols have tremendous length and quickness and make the most of it through their aggressive and gambling trapping defense. Tennessee extends on-ball pressure far beyond the three point line and is very active in the passing lanes. However, the Tennessee defense seems to collapse a bit too much in reaction to dribble penetration, leaving shooters open on the wings — a potential means of attack for Michigan. This is all vintage Tennessee basketball under Bruce Pearl.

Watching Tennessee play, it becomes very clear that their offense is largely dependent on forcing turnovers. The Vols scored 18 points off of turnovers in the game and seemed to be much more effective when the game seems to ratchet up a level toward “out of control”. It’s absolutely critical that Michigan values the basketball and controls the pace of the game. Tennessee is 7-9 in games played at a 64 possession pace  or slower compared to 12-5 in faster games. Ken Pomeroy’s correlation numbers also show that Tennessee’s offense and defense improve as the tempo of the game increases.

Tennessee’s half court offense left quite a bit to be desired. The Vols had an awful shooting day, connecting on 4 of 19 three point attempts, and seemed content to sit around for long stretches. There wasn’t a lot of movement with a purpose, mostly a handful of seemingly meaningless passes followed by a drive and kick or drive and shoot. Tennessee got over a quarter of its scoring production from second chance opportunities.

My gut feeling is that Michigan should be able to hold Tennessee to a low shooting percentage, the only question is whether the Wolverines can hold onto the ball and box out guys like Brian Williams and Tobias Harris. Two terrific rebounders.

Tobias Harris (#12)

Tobias Harris was dominant in the first half of this game, scoring in a number of different ways. He scored off the pick and roll both as the screener and ball handler, hit a three, took the ball to the rack, and also scored with his back to the basket. At 6-foot-8 and 226 pounds, Harris can do a bit of everything at the four position. Harris had a good shooting game versus Florida – 10 of 17 (1-4 3pt) – but the key to defending him is forcing him to shoot jumpers. Here are his shooting numbers broken down into layups, two point jump shots, and three point shots:

Shooting Made Attempts %
Layups/Dunks 89 135 65.9%
2 point jumpers 65 178 36.5%
3 point jumpers 25 77 32.5%

As you can see, roughly half of his makes this season are on layups or dunks. Take away the easy baskets and Harris isn’t nearly as effective. Tobias is also a very good rebounder and has the ability to rebound the ball on defense and push the ball up the floor himself. Michigan has faced an array of talented power forwards this year of varying styles – Mbakwe, Watford, Shurna, Morris, Green, Basabe, Brooks, etc – but from what I saw in this game, Harris ranks near the top of this list if he’s on his A-game. He picked up a deep thigh bruise near the end of the first half and his production waned in the second half. He sat out during Monday’s practice but the issue shouldn’t have much influence this weekend.

Scotty Hopson (#32)

Hopson is the best scorer on the Vol roster and while he’s never going to be the epitome of consistency, he’s still going to fill up the scoring column. Hopson started the game with an explosive move to the hoop before seeming to disappear for a while, mostly settling for perimeter jumpshots. He seemed to get things going in the second half when he began to attack the hoop again, driving, posting up and scoring on the interior. A 6-foot-7 200lb ball handler, he’s a tough match-up for Michigan. He’s extremely quick and can beat guys off the dribble but also play with his back to the basket. I think we could see Darius Morris on him early, as he might have to best combination of strength and quickness to defend him.

Hopson is Tennessee’s best perimeter shooter and makes 37.7% of his three point attempts, 5% better than the next best Vol. That said, his shot selection seemed far from perfect as he was content to fire up contested threes. He only assists his teammates on 11% of the possessions that he uses while turning it over on 19%.

Brian Williams (#33)

It’s just one game but Williams was not impressive offensively. He finished with 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting and had several passes go off of his hands out of bounds. I’m not sure how he wasn’t credited with a single turnover in this game. Williams does a good job of using his massive frame (6-10, 272 lbs) to grab rebounds as he had 12 boards (8 def, 4 off). The offensive rebounding is the biggest concern for Michigan. I suspect you will see Morgan try to hold his box out on Williams as long as possible while having the guards try to clean up the mess.

Williams is obviously bigger than Jordan Morgan but Morgan is quicker and needs to use his quickness to his advantage. Morgan has battled Jared Sullinger who is similarly sized so he should be well prepared for dealing with a less skilled version. Michigan will also try to spread the floor and bring Williams into space where they can take advantage of his lack of foot speed.

Other Players:

  • Melvin Goins (#2): Goins is quick but much smaller than Morris. He doesn’t seem to always make the best decisions and is an average shooter at best.
  • Cameron Tatum: Started 32 games this year but came off the bench versus Florida and only played 7 minutes. Wing scorer is in a major funk and has made just 8 of his last 38 field goals, 21%. Tatum was a 39% three pint shooting last year but is shooting just 27% from behind the arc this season.
  • Josh Bone: An SIU transfer, started in Tatum’s place and isn’t a much better shooter (just 29% on threes) but still attempts half his shots from distance.
  • Skylar McBee: The sophomore guard was by far the most impressive player off of the Tennessee bench, scoring 10 points on 6 shots. He’s attempted 80% of his field goals from three point range this season but is just a 32% three point shooter. In this game he hit two of four triples and also had a pair of layups.
  • Mattski

    Much appreciated. Going to take an half hour and review this just before the game. I learn a lot from this site, and it deepens my enjoyment of the games.

  • Chris

    A big part of our gameplan will be to slow the game down, and make it into a half court game. Tenn gets a lot of easy buckets in transition, if we can limit this it will frustate them. With so many days to prepare, Beilein is one of the best in the business for schemes and matchups. I feel the way I felt going into Illinois. They have better athletes, but we have better coaching and skilled players. It should be a fun game, I just hope we aren’t fighting from behind most of the game. I do expect to see more of Horford since he is cleared to play. He will need to bang with their bigs and give a rest to Morgan.

  • Suavdaddy

    The biggest issue I see – ball handlers not named Morris. Douglass and Hardaway are simply horrendous dribbling in traffic. They are turnovers waiting to happen. Douglass especially since Hardaway is at least fast.

  • Carcajous

    Hardaway has a very low turnover rate and Douglass’ is actually lower than Morris’ turnover rate. See KenPom:

    • Azad

      Whatever the stats say, if you’ve watched this team all season, tell me how comfortable you would be with Hardaway trying to break a full court press. I love the kid, he’s just not there yet. Douglass can get the ball up the court, but in terms of creating shots for himself or others…Morris has shouldered the load on those fronts all season and Friday will not be any different.

    • Andy

      Thanks for posting this. We keep seeing comments like Suavdaddy’s in regard to Douglass over and over, even though the games and the numbers don’t back up what he says at all. You have to start to wonder if he’s getting sterotyped or profiled into these assessments. Next, someone will comment on his “poor” perimiter defense.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Eh. There’s a balance. The turnover rate isn’t everything in the sense that a guy like Darius does much much more with the ball. Douglass has had some bad games with the ball, just off the top of my head is Ohio State on Saturday.

        I think that Darius is far more comfortable putting the ball on the floor under pressure. That’s a fair statement.

        • Carcajous

          I agree, Dylan. My point in posting the numbers was simply to counter the notion that Hardaway and Douglass are turnover machines. They aren’t.

          • Azad

            If Hardaway and Douglass were put in the same positions as Morris is, with respect to responsibility for ball handling, I have no doubt that they would be turnover machines. They aren’t turnover machines to some degree because of Morris. That’s not an insult to Hardaway or Douglass, it’s just how it is.

          • Carcajous

            “If Hardaway and Douglass were put in the same positions as Morris is, with respect to responsibility for ball handling, I have no doubt that they would be turnover machines. They aren’t turnover machines to some degree because of Morris. That’s not an insult to Hardaway or Douglass, it’s just how it is.”

            This is a truism. Substitute any team’s point guard for Morris in your argument and any two wings/shooting guards on that team for Hardaway and Douglass and the argument is true. Of course others don’t turn the ball over as much as they would if they were asked to do what Morris does. Of course. That’s why we don’t as them to do that. We ask Morris to do it.

          • gpsimms

            he was not suggesting they were TO machines, just that we have exactly one player on our team with high level dribbling skills and good speed to deal with UTEP type pressure. (stu, IMO has the dribbling skill, but is slow; hardaway has elite speed, but dribbles about as well as manny did)

        • Andy

          There’s certainly a balance and I think it’s clear that Morris is the best suited to handle pressure defense. I disagree with the assertation that Douglass is a turnover machine. Morris dribbles himself into several of the same bad situations that Douglass does, but Morris has the physical ability to get out of it far more often that seems possible. When Douglass faces one on one pressure bringing the ball up, he is very good at turning the defender and getting it across the time line. I don’t remember him getting the ball ripped from him at all. Most of his turnovers are from trying to do too much.

          I do agree that Douglass isn’t likely to manufacture his own shot like Morris and (sometime) Hardaway can do.

      • ForeverBlue23

        I have the same frustrations with the incessant criticism of Douglass.

    • gpsimms

      right, but have you seen him dribble in traffic? i totally agree with suav on this.

      • gpsimms

        by him i mean THJr

  • Azad

    I am not looking forward to the stretches of the game where Morris and/or Hardaway comes off the court. I would imagine we will be seeing a lot of pick and roll against this defense; I’m hoping the trapping and aggressiveness comes with enough undisciplined play to give us some easy openings inside.

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  • Chris

    Oh, Carcajous, don’t bother him with FACTS!

    • gpsimms

      come on now, TO rate is just as much a function of what kind of shots you take as it is how good of a ball handler you are. he takes 55% of his shots from 3. have you watched him dribble?

      • Mattski

        This is a fair point, too. And both Hardaway AND Douglass have lost the handle at times recently. But if you’re an intensely interested fan, these screw-ups tend to become magnified. It’s good to remember that everyone screws up a number of times every single game, and have some data to show how relatively minimal such flubs are.

  • alan

    anyone else notice that Obama picked us to beat Tennessee on the ESPN front page? Not directly but if you watch him fill out his bracket, when they zoom in on him talking about Duke, you see Duke Michigan…nice


    If controlling the tempo of the game does in fact turn out to be important, I don’t think we’ll be in dire situations when Morris has to take a rest. Douglass actually did rather well against Ohio State when Morris was on the bench, and after watching nearly every game this season I feel that the tempo of the game is a bit slower and more controlled when Douglass is playing the point (as opposed to Morris, of course). Morris can get frustrated as we saw in the Ohio State game and this leads to turnovers and bad play for everyone. I love the kid, but all I’m saying is I don’t think it’s going to be terrible when he sits on the bench for five or seven minutes.

  • gpsimms

    just curious: does the barlow news change how you think purdue will do? i had them beating nd but losing to kansas in the elite 8. now I don’t know what I should do. i feel like it doesn’t change them offensively at all…i’m leaning towards still beating nd.

    • Andy

      I picked Purdue to win the whole thing. I don’t think they’re the best team by far, but KenPom gives them a 5% chance to win it all and the general public is picking them at just over 1%. So, I figure if Purdue wins it all, I’m in great position to cash in. There’s no point in coming in middle of the pack in a tournament challenge. The Barlow thing scares me, but I’m pretending not to notice.

    • Yinka Double Dare

      Barlow is the worst (or least efficient) offensive player in their main rotation, but they will miss him on the defensive end.

    • Carcajous

      I’d be less worried about Barlow specifically and more concerned about bigger team issues for Purdue. There is a reason they tanked down the stretch. Maybe Barlow is a symptom of a larger problem.

  • Fred_Ex

    Watching the videos, it looks like Tennessee likes taking bad shots. Thanks for the tape Dylan and I agree if you can force Tobias Harris to shoot mid-range and beyond jumpers, we’ll be alright. You know however they are going to try to work the mismatch on Novak (the size differential and all) so if we can be swift on and off the double team we may have success. Also, the Vols don’t look comfortable passing the ball or dribbling for that matter, so maybe we pressure Harris in the post, force him to make an uncomfortable pass and we get some turnovers that lead to Michigan baskets. All of this is predicated around slow down the game to eliminate transition baskets and not allowing second chance opportunities from offensive rebounds.

  • ToBlav

    On the Douglas ball handling subject – he doesn’t look comfortable dribbling against pressure. That might make some people feel uneasy but it doesn’t mean he turns it over an unreasonable amount of the time. If it had to look good John Shurna would never make a shot. Point being, Douglas is unfairly stigmatized a lot.

  • MarcO

    Just saw president obama fill out his bracket on espnU and he has michigan losing to duke in the 2nd round.


  • Section13Row15

    I think it’s good to be aware that Tennessee wants to play fast, force turnovers, run out on transition, etc. but I don’t think that we will necessarily have to change how we’ve played all season to beat them. i don’t remember any games where we’ve excessively turned the ball over and get caught up in a run and gun type of game. I think our style of offense does well against the over-reactive defense that Tennessee plays and we just have to stay disciplined, use the pass fakes and find the open guy.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Agree that there aren’t many instances of times when we’ve played out of control but there are games where we’ve looked hesitant and struggled against turnovers, similar to the UTEP game.

  • Section13Row15

    Yes definitely. But I think we would both agree that U-M now is a different team than the one that played UTEP earlier in the season.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      For sure. Key is proving it and taking advantage.

  • Chris in NC

    Dylan, are you going to travel to the games this weekend? Anyone else making the trek?