Last season: 16 - 16 (7 - 11 in conference)
My Prediction: 6 - 12 (in conference)
RockyTopTalk's Prediction: - 10 - 8
The Masses Prediction: 5.7 - 12.3
The ever impatient fanbase in Texas knew exactly who to blame for the fact that the basketball program, I don’t know, didn’t win the National Title year after year? Rick Barnes was the problem. A man who had only missed one NCAA tournament in 17 years was run out of town and he landed in Knoxville. Barnes had never gotten over the hump and into the Final Four at Texas, but he became a victim of his own success, as he was far and away the most successful coach in Texas history. Elevating the program eventually cost him his job, but he wasn’t out of work long as the Volunteers, reeling from the Donnie Tyndall NCAA scandal, scooped up the veteran coach and put him to work. Two seasons removed from Cuonzo Martin leading the Vols to a Sweet 16 and then taking the job at Cal, Tennessee was hoping for some stabilization after cycling through 4 coaches in 6 years. Barnes should provide just that.
WHO THEY LOST
Josh Richardson did everything for the Vols last season. He played more minutes than anyone in the SEC, and was clearly the MVP for a team that started out strongly enough before eventually fading to a 7-11 league record. Richardson did a lot, but not enough to cover up the many holes on a roster that saw massive attrition the season before when they went to the Sweet Sixteen. Willie Carmichael transferring isn’t a huge loss, the same with Tariq Owens who also left via transfer. Woodson was a highly recruited player who flamed out at Memphis before flaming out mid season at Tennessee, and Ian Chiles was a 5th year senior who never got going after dealing with an injury before calling it a career. So basically the Vols lost one really important piece, and then a bunch of guys.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
|Robert Hubbs III||junior||G||32||.618||.114||.100||.481||.159||108.0|
|Jabari McGhee||r-freshman||G||REDSHIRT -- Injury|
There is some intrigue on the roster with the players that are coming back for the Volunteers this season. Returning more than 70% of your minutes and nearly 70% of your points is a good thing. There isn’t really a guy that you can point to and get too excited about, because there are still all kinds of questions, but there’s still intrigue. Robert Hubbs is a former 5-star wing who lost the bulk of his season due to shoulder surgery as a freshmen and was working his way back into action last year. He’s the kind of player who can turn it on if he’s ready, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together to this point. Mostella was a highly rated combo guard who played very well in spurts, and has a flair for scoring if HE can put it all together. Kevin Punter is more of a steady hand, but should be able to provide solid minutes at all three perimeter spots. Armani Moore and Derek Reese are solid role guys who were asked to do more last year and managed, perhaps asked to play out of position due to the Vols lack of size a bit. Moore came out of high school as a wing, and played a lot in the post last year, and Reese strikes me as a combo forward who was stuck often playing center.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
Forced with playing a bit of a scramble to save the recruiting class by the time he go to Knoxville, Rick Barnes actually put together a solid recruiting class. Ray Kosongo was a highly sought after post player before not qualifying and has landed at Tennessee. Kosongo should be able to provide really effective post minutes from the start, although his offensive game is still developing. Kyle Alexander is a mostly unheard of, but incredibly high ceiling prospect from Canada, he’s a 6’10 post player with a extremely long arms and good athleticism. Lamonte Turner was deemed not academically eligible, but will practice with the team and sit out. Admiral Schofield is a physical wing who at least should be ready to provide solid minutes defensively, and hopefully contribute in the scoring column here and there. Phillips is a solid combo guard from Georgia who should be a very nice 4 year player, though his contributions might be limited in year one.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Detrick Mostella||Kevin Punter||Robert Hubbs|
|Lamonte Turner||Devon Baulkman||Admiral Schofield|
|Armani Moore||Derrick Reese|
|Ray Kosongo||Kyle Alexander|
Tennessee made the right hire when they went with Rick Barnes, a stable, clean and reputable winning coach who was highly successful at Texas for almost 20 years. After churning through 4 coaches in 5 years years (Bruce Pearl ‘11, Cuonzo Martin 12-14, Donnie Tyndall 15), Barnes will hopefully provide the steadiness that the Vols have lacked in recent years. But Barnes has a bit of a rebuild on his hands, and it isn’t off to the swiftest start. He’s got a few pieces, but the depth isn’t great, and it’s going to be tough to get Tennessee over the hump and into the NCAA tournament, a place in which Barnes has been 22 times in 28 years as a head coach. For him to make that 23, he’s got a long road ahead.
Tennessee doesn’t have a crazy tough schedule, but it’s not an easy one. Their non-conference slate is highlighted by games against Gonzaga and Butler, two "mid-major" perennial top 25 teams. Georgia Tech should be a tough matchup, as should George Washington in Brooklyn, NY. After GW, they’ll get either Cincinnati or Nebraska, and then they get TCU in the SEC/Big12 Challenge. That’s 6 challenging games in the non-conference slate, and a potential of 6 losses outside of SEC play. Kenpom projects an 8-10 record during conference play, and it’s easy to see why as the Vols have some very tough sledding. Start with a home and home against Kentucky, and then a home and home against Vanderbilt and you’re likely looking at 4 losses there. Playing at Georgia is a pretty sure loss as well. South Carolina, Arkansas and Auburn make up the rest of the home and homes, so UT can’t really afford to drop games against the Tigers and Razorbacks, and need a split with South Carolina to tread water. I can see UT being a .500 SEC team, but it won’t be easy for them to get there and will require them beating some teams they probably shouldn’t.
So how do the Vols get there? They need Robert Hubbs to be a 5-star player, Armani Moore to provide points and rebounds, Kevin Punter needs to shoot consistently, and they need big performances from the new post players, Kyle Alexander and Ray Kosongo. Alexander and Kosongo have a lot of potential and will be stalwarts in the paint for the foreseeable future. The sooner the future gets for them the better off the Volunteers will be this season.
Even if everything goes the right way for Tennessee this year it’s hard to see them being much more than that .500 team. Everything being equal, I think their roster is better than Missouri, but Missouri has an easier schedule, and the Vols have to play at Mizzou. It’s just those sort of breaks that takes what likely should be a 9-9 team and turns them into a 6-12 team. There could be some room to improve on that record, like I said I don’t hate the makeup of the roster. There are some good parts, but unless Hubbs turns into a 1st round draft pick this year, it’s hard to see that happening. At least the Vols will be able to find some stability at the head coaching position, and begin the progress towards a regular NCAA team again.
This season is going to be a steep, steep uphill climb for Tennessee. Kevin Punter and Robert Hubbs are expected to be the go-to players for this team. That is not good a thing. The SEC as a league is going to be vastly improved from last season with quality head coaching hires and top-notch recruiting in the off-season from schools like Mississippi State and LSU. Vol fans are basically just going to have to grin and bear it this year because even a seemingly good coach like Rick Barnes can’t make players more inherently talented. A .500 record is going to be an accomplishment in 2015 but maybe UT can steal a few games that they’re not supposed to. My best-case scenario is for Tennessee for them to be that team that top-tier teams should beat, but you know you’re going to get a close game out them. Just keep games close, be respectable, and come back next year when Rick Barnes has a had a full recruiting cycle to work with.
|Charlie Burris||Rocky Top Talk|
If you don't believe in the power of the people, I give you the Tennessee Volunteers. Sure we all vote (well half of us do) on election day every four years, and we impact our system in that way, but truly, it probably doesn't make a difference. And you can vote on the Voice or other such shows, but that opinion probably is jimmied a little bit. No, what Tennessee fans did, they did to themselves and it's hilarious. What did they do you might ask? Well they took a wonderful coach who had things going in the right direction and got him fired. Poor Cuonzo Martin, he just wasn't Bruce Pearl enough for you was he? Not painting his chest and going to the lady's games. Nope, all he did was take you to the post season three times in a row and was a bad call away from an elite 8 in that last one...The pied piper of this mess was the internet's greatest invention, Clay Travis (seriously just ask him) promoting a petition to bring back Pearl and saying it was the only thing to do. Well Tennessee you ended up getting your wish, Cuonzo was booted. But there was no Pearl, he went to Auburn and is chest painting there. Nope Tennessee hired Donnie Tyndall, an unscrupulous man who lasted one year and was then also fired for all sorts of academic scandals at Southern Miss. Now you have Rick Barnes. And what is old Cuonzo up to right now? Well he's at Cal with the 5th best recruiting class in the nation...let that sink in. You did this to yourselves Volunteers, this is all you...and this team this year, will be bad...possibly Mizzou 2014-2015 bad...oh man, I would say I feel for you...but...well...nope!
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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