Despite 1-2 starts, Tennessee doesn’t panic in Battle 4 Atlantis

With a top-15 ranking going into the season, you’d think a 1-2 start would be cause for panic for the Tennessee Volunteers.

But when that schedule started a year ago with three straight NCAA tournament teams, including two Big Ten teams, likely to be in the top 10 in the polls next week, a 1-2 start that saw them lose in both remained stubborn. is nothing to worry about.

While three tournament teams are daunting for anyone to open the season, the Volunteers could start with up to five of their first six games taking on postseason qualifiers when the Bad Boy Mowers Women’s Battle 4 Atlantis concludes on Saturday at Paradise Island in the Bahamas .

2022 Battle 4 Atlantis Women’s Tournament

They start Saturday against an improved Rutgers team that’s not far from being one of the sport’s top programs and then meet the winner of the South Dakota State and UCLA game.

Should the Volunteers win both games, one of those top teams – Gonzaga, Louisville, Marquette or Texas – would wait in the finals.

There are absolutely no easy games for anyone in the group, and that’s all before the volunteers break into the league in perhaps the deepest and most difficult league in women’s basketball, the SEC, home of defending champions South Carolina Gamecocks.

If there’s one team built to handle the rigors of a schedule that features just as many games versus postseason competitions, it’s a Tennessee team that boasts one of the best defensemen in the country along with one of the most versatile Players of the world has nation. Both could hear their names in next year’s WNBA Draft.

Jordan Horston was an All-America Honorable Mention last season, scoring over 16 points per game and catching nearly 10 rebounds per game. She’s started a bit slow this year against the tough part of the schedule, but she’s not far from last season’s averages, including leading the team in rebounds.

Tamari Key is also returning and is one of the top centers in the country. Last season, she blocked 3.5 shots per game while averaging nearly a double-double.

If the 1-2 start has any silver lining, other than being strong against top competition, then the Vols have four players in double figures early on, including Rickea Jackson at nearly 17 a game and Jasmine Powell with 13 a night , plus Darby Tess knocks on the door of 10 points a game.

That kind of scoring depth is a must in a tournament like Battle 4 Atlantis, where the compressed schedule and top-flight competition certainly require more than one option if a team is hoping to win the championship trophy.

If the Vols are to do this it will require improved defense and ball safety, where they drop 77 points per game early on despite shooting both 2s and 3s at a higher clip than their opponents.

Add in the fact that the Vols have a -20 turnover differential in preseason, and it’s a recipe that should apparently sort itself out as the team continues to play together and mesh.

A program like Tennessee is one that expects to win trophies and play well into March, and part of the strategy for that, stretching back even to the days of the late, great Pat Summitt, was to keep all comers on to draw their costs over time.

They did that to open the season and the Battle 4 Atlantis will help them become more battle hardened when the rigors of the SEC and NCAA tournament come.