KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If Georgia basketball coach Mike White showed signs of trepidation entering tonight’s game, it’s understandable.
Not only are the Bulldogs a 16-point underdog against No. 4-ranked Tennessee, but Thompson-Boling Arena has been White’s personal House of Horrors.
White is 0-11 in Knoxville, 0-6 while head coach at Florida, 0-3 as an assistant coach at Ole Miss and 0-2 in road games at Tennessee during his playing days with the Rebels.
That history, of course, doesn’t figure to translate to the Georgia basketball players, but the talents and defense of this Vols’ team likely will.
Tennessee has the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per KenPom, allowing only 83.8 points per 100 possessions and it leads the Division I ranks in overall field-goal percentage defense (.342) and 3-point defense in Division I (.218).
“They are one of the best defenses that I have scouted,” White said. “Their numbers are staggering …. it is ridiculous how they defend the three, how they defend the twos, how often they turn you over, how they defend actions, their connectivity, their physicality.
“This is a team that could potentially win the whole thing.
Georgia (13-6, 3-3 SEC) is coming off consecutive losses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Tennessee (16-3, 6-1) enters this 7 p.m. (SEC Network) Wednesday night contest looking to make the Bulldogs a nice warm-up game for a big weekend ahead with No. 7 Texas and ESPN College GameDay coming to Knoxville.
It would seem like all the motivation is there for Georgia to play spoiler, with the Vols possibly looking ahead to their national showdown with the Longhorns.
White, however, made it very clear the Bulldogs will need to be at their best to stay in the game and give themselves a chance to win.
“It has got to be one of our better performances, if not our best, just to have a chance to be within striking distance,” White said. “We are going to have to make some hard ones because there will be a lot of hard ones for us. We have got to convert from the foul line.
“We have got to find a way to manufacture some points.”
White’s brother, Danny, is the athletic director at Tennessee and certainly there will be some respect paid toward that.
Vols coach Rick Barnes had nothing but good things to say about White earlier this week.
“Mike is going to win wherever he goes, he does a terrific job,” Barnes said. “He did a terrific job at Florida, and he’ll do a terrific job at Georgia.
“Mike’s teams defensively are going to guard you, and they are going to make you work on every possession.”
UGA post Braelen Bridges was not part of the 2019-20 Tom Crean team that beat Barnes and the Vols 80-63 in Athens.
But Bridges was on the floor last season when the Bulldogs played Tennessee even for a half before falling 75-68, losing a home-court win streak over the Vols that had dated back 10 years.
“A very good defensive team,” said Bridges, who was 6-of-7 shooting last year against UT and scored 12 points.