Tennessee basketball: How Kansas Jayhawks suspensions really help Vols

After the Kansas State Wildcats brawl, the Kansas Jayhawks have two players suspended when they face Tennessee basketball. It will help the Volunteers.

In some ways, it’s poetic justice. Tennessee basketball, which has lost three out of four times it faced the Kansas Jayhawks in school history, has made it a trend to be short-handed when these two face off.

We all remember the epic upset UT scored over the No. 1 Jayhawks a decade ago with four players suspended. Well, then there was their 87-81 overtime loss last year to Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship. Lamonte Turner was hurt in that game, and despite playing and scoring 10 points, he missed far too many shots in the process.

Rocky Top would win 19 straight after that loss and spend nearly a month at No. 1. Anyway, Tennessee basketball could use a game against the Kansas Jayhawks in which Bill Self’s team is short-handed, and after their insane brawl with the Kansas State Wildcats in an 81-59 win on Tuesday, this Saturday looks like it could have been the game.

On paper, the players that were suspended wouldn’t appear to make much of a difference. Silvio De Sousa, who was part of what started the fight and the biggest culprit with his chair grab, was suspended for seven games. But the 6’9″ 245-pound power forward averages only eight minutes a game and under three points and three rebounds.

David McCormack, another power forward at 6’10” 265 pounds, is definitely a bigger loss, averaging seven and a half points and over four and a half rebounds in over 16 minutes of action a game. But again, he is another bench player.

However, these aren’t just two bench players being suspended. They are the only bench players with any real size, and Self will now have to play Devon Dotson a lot more minutes while also turning to Jalen Wilson, a 6’8″ 215-pound forward who has seen a total of two minutes of action all year.

With Tennessee basketball’s newfound length, that’s a problem. Sure, their starters rely more on tempo, athleticism of Yves Pons and the presence of John Fulkerson. But the recent addition of seven-footer Uros Plavsic and the emergence of 6’8″ 225-pound Olivier Nkamhoua, who had 10 points the other night, really shakes things up.

All of a sudden, Barnes could put both guys in there and completely fresh when Self pulls Dotson to the bench, which he’ll have to do. If Barnes keeps the tempo up with his starters, Dotson could get even more tired. And that gives the Vols a huge size advantage with their depth.

Nobody thought they would see this from Tennessee basketball a few weeks ago. Kansas was always bound to have the size advantage. But these two suspensions could prove disastrous if Barnes takes advantage of it the right way.

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It would have been much better if De Sousa and a guard, or even two guards, were suspended. Heck, they could have lived with McCormack and a guard being suspended. But now the Vols only have one big man to worry about, and they have three different big men they can turn to at different points in the game by throwing in different looks. That makes these suspensions matter.