Resilient Vols can hold their own in Big East, more UT-Pitt analysis
With Florida struggling to find its form and Kentucky still managing the inconsistency of its youth, the window's open for Tennessee to claim the league's pole position. And, as if the Vols needed more help, they will be even deeper when Jeronne Maymon becomes eligible (and they get Renaldo Woolridge back from an ankle injury).
Now, look at what happened in the first half against Tennessee, when the game was fundamentally decided:
Pitt had four separate instances where it claimed two offensive rebounds on the same sequence, so there were really six possessions involved, even though it will go down as 10 offensive rebounds for the Panthers. Those 10 offensive boards, though, produced just three points, a staggeringly low yield given Pitt's numbers for the season, and even more amazing given Tennessee's starting big men (Tobias Harris and Brian Williams) combined to play just 22 minutes in the half.
In the stat books, today will go down as a 43.9 percent offensive rebounding rate for Pitt (18 offensive boards to 23 defensive rebounds for Tennessee). It wasn't the rebounding that let the Panthers down. It was what they did with the ball afterward.
Hopson has improved his points per shot significantly this season, but that's mostly due to improvement from the free throw line. Before today, he wasn't shooting any better from the floor than he was last year, when he was at a high-but-more reasonable 26.1 percent shooting rate.
Hopson was sensational in this game, but he's not going to score 27 points on 13 field-goal attempts most nights. If he's going to be using the ball at anywhere this extent the rest of the way, how much he can cut down on the 5-for-14s will help determine just how lethal Tennessee can be.
The second week of December is far too early to sound an alarm on a supposedly elite team. What resonated more was how Tennessee significantly raised the bar on its own potential.