An old rivalry renewed?
How to Watch
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Radio: 97-9 ESPN
Location: Thompson-Boling Arena
The third ranked Huskies (8-0) travel to Knoxville, Tennessee (9-2) to take on one of their long-time foes, the 25th ranked Lady Vols.
The UConn-Tennessee rivalry needs no introduction. The series started 25 years ago, in January of 1995. This had been one of, if not the, premier rivalries in women’s college basketball, but the rivalry faded over the years. Pat Summit and Geno Auriemma battled for college basketball supremacy, but the rivalry was called off by Pat Summit in 2007.
With new leadership in place at Tennessee, the two teams met last season after a 13 year hiatus. Can the rivalry be renewed to the same level it once was? Maybe not, but this is still a big opportunity for the Huskies to win a top 25 matchup if nothing else. Currently, UConn holds a 14-9 advantage in the all-time series. The Huskies will look to extend this to 15-9 as Geno Auriemma goes for his 1100 career win. Pat Summit ranks third all-time in career wins, with 1098; and Geno sits in second with 1099. Perhaps having a major career milestone on the line can help spark some renewed interest in this dormant rivalry.
Interesting Tidbits on the Rivalry
UConn and Tennessee used to meet annually for their big rivalry game from 1995-2007. But because they aren’t conference rivals, a number of their matchups have actually come in the NCAA tournament. UConn and Tennessee have met in the NCAA tournament many times. UConn holds a 5-2 advantage, including 4-0 in title games (duh, UConn doesn’t lose National Championship games). Each team has also been in the AP Top 25 during every ranking, Tennessee narrowly kept that alive this season, coming in at #25 for this matchup.
It should be noted that UConn guard, Evina Westbrook, transferred from Tennessee and likely has some extra motivation for this game, especially after sitting out last season.
Tennessee has gotten off to a strong start this season, with wins over the likes of a ranked Indiana and Arkansas team. The Lady Vols are led by Rennia Davis (14.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG) and Rae Burrell (16.7 PPG). Tennessee is averaging just over 75 PPG while holding opponents to just 58 PPG. Currently, Tennessee is holding opponents to a lowly 34% shooting from the field. They are also a strong rebounding team, the battle on the boards will be an interesting stat to watch this game. Can the Vols slow down the Huskies?
Per HerHoopStats, UConn seems to be at or near the top in nearly every statistical category as a team. The Huskies are averaging 89 PPG (second in the country) while holding opponents to just 47.9 PPG (also second in the nation). I mentioned Tennessee’s defense above, but UConn is holding their opponents to just 29.4% from the field this season (you guessed it, they lead the nation here). As if that wasn’t enough, on the offensive side of the ball UConn leads the nation in effective field goal percentage (59.7%). Geno Auriemma has lamented the Huskies offense and defense this season, but the team is averaging an astonishing 22.8 assists per game. Tennessee will have their hands full slowing down the Huskies.
The Huskies start off slow, but I expect them to pull away and win rather comfortably. If they can force others besides Davis and Burrell to make plays and beat them, that will be a recipe for success. The Tennessee rivalry isn’t what it once was, but it can still be fun to beat up on an old foe. Huskies win.