Feb 13, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers forward Jarnell Stokes (5) drives against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Memorial Gym. The Volunteers beat the Commodores 58-46. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday Thoughts: Kentucky Wildcats @ Tennessee Volunteers

 Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee is all set to take on Kentucky today at Thompson Boling Arena. Kentucky currently holds a six game winning streak in the series.  If Tennessee were to pull off the upset against the defending national champions, they could find themselves in a surprise position with a shot at making the NCAA tournament.

The Vols currently sit at 13-10 overall and have won four of their last six.  Tennessee will be looking to add to their nation leading 66 wins all time against the Wildcats.

Kentucky will be playing without star freshmen Nerlens Noel.  The 6’10” forward tore his ACL in the Wildcat’s loss to Florida, and will miss the rest of the season. Noel’s production and defense will be a huge loss for Kentucky.  In the Wildcats and Vols last meeting Noel had 12 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks, and four steals in 38 minutes of playing time.

Jarnell Stokes played poorly against Kentucky the last time out, only scoring 4 points in 16 minutes of play, after fouling out. Stokes has been play much better as of late, and is looking for his seventh double-double in a row. Stokes will have a chance to make a bigger impact in the inside game with the absence of Noel.

Kentucky is expected to go with a slightly smaller lineup, with guard Julius Mays getting the start. The Wildcats still have a big front line that consists of 7’0″ forward Willie Cauley-Stein, and 6’7″ forward Alex Polythress.  Kentucky will also have 6’10” Kyle Wiltjer  coming off the bench.  Wiltjer had a big game against the Vols last month, scoring 17 points.  Wiltjer presents matchup issues for Tennessee, the sophomore is accurate from the perimeter, as well as having the ability to play inside.

A win over Kentucky would do more then just put them in a position to possibly make the tournament. There are several high profile football recruits making visits to Tennessee this weekend.  Including hometown four star safety Todd Kelly JR, and the twin brothers of legendary Vols safety Eric Berry, Evan and Elliot Berry.  The atmosphere at Thompson Boling is sure to be rocking today, and a win over Kentucky will resonate in the mind of recruits, even if it is a basketball game, they’ll get a chance to see how Tennessee fans revere their teams in Knoxville.

Kentucky and Tennessee tip off at 1:00 PM EST on CBS.

Tags: Basketball Kentucky Wildcats SEC Tennessee Volunteers

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