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Let’s face it. Tennessee basketball has been figured out on offense.

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Over a month ago, Tennessee basketball suffered a shocking upset at home. The Vols, ranked No. 5 at the time, fell 63-56 to the Kentucky Wildcats just as calls to fire John Calipari had reached boiling point and on the same day they retired Chris Lofton’s jersey.

At the time, that seemed like one big fluke. After a four-game winning streak following that loss, including a top 10 win over the Texas Longhorns to get UT back to No. 2, such a narrative was supported by evidence.

However, lost in that streak is how Kentucky won and the fact that other teams were emulating their same defensive scheme. What was clear is that if you stay on the perimeter when Tennessee basketball throws it down low, their offense struggles.

Kentucky just completed a sweep of the Vols 66-54 Saturday using that same strategy. Every team has used that strategy since the first time they beat UT, and that’s why the Vols have lost four of six and three of their last four.

By committing to perimeter defense, teams are exposing UT’s inability to play inside-out basketball. Their three-point shooting has cratered as a result.

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In their first 16 games of the year before that January matchup with Kentucky, they were hitting over eight three-pointers a game and shooting 34.5 percent from three. That wasn’t record-setting great or anything but it was certainly good enough.

However, over the past 11 games, starting with that UK matchup, they are shooting 28.8 percent from three and hitting under seven a game.

The Vols shot over 40 percent of three in five of their first 16 games but only two of their last 11. They shot under 30 percent from three in five of their 16 games but in six of their last 11.

Now, with their historically great defense, it’s still enough to sometimes beat good teams, even great teams, such as the Auburn Tigers and No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide at home. That’s how they won four straight after their first Kentucky loss.

At the same time, though, it creates insane levels of inconsistency, something Rick Barnes hasn’t been able to overcome. This red flag shot when they shot 31.6 percent from three against Texas. It was even worse when they were 26.1 percent vs. Alabama.

We just didn’t notice those two because the Vols were lucky enough for the other team to either play mistake-prone basketball or not be that red-hot. It’s a different story now. Every team is about to commit to this same defense against UT.

Given that fact, it’s hard to see Tennessee basketball getting past the first weekend in March now. The book is out on their offense, and Barnes doesn’t seem able to adjust.

You can’t get around the fact that defense alone doesn’t ever win championships in any sport, and it’s probably least important in March Madness. Now that there’s an easy formula to shut down UT’s offense, they have little chance.

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