#13 Tennessee Volunteers
Last Season: 15-19 (6-12) #103 kenpom
My Prediction: 5 - 13 (13th in conference)
Orange & White Report’s Prediction: 9 - 9 T - 4th in conference
The Masses Prediction: 6.1 - 11.9 (13th in conference)
HEAD COACH: Rick Barnes second season 15-19
It’s been a rough few seasons for Tennessee basketball. When Cuonzo Martin left the program after three mostly okay seasons, the Vols handed his team over to Donnie Tyndall. And the disastrous hire of a future show clause recipient set the program back substantially. Players came and went and Rick Barnes took over in hopes to stabilize a sinking program. UT has the facilities and history of a solid second tier program but has sunk because of the very recent and loose past with the NCAA rules and investigations. So turn to Barnes, a man with a good, solid and clean record and expect him to right the ship. Barnes history at Texas shown he can run a powerhouse program and do so without NCAA investigators breathing down his neck. The road in Knoxville will require a little bit of restraint as he’s going to need to provide continuity to a program that hasn’t had any since Pearl was shown the door. It’s amazing what a Bar-B-Q party has done to one of the best programs in the SEC in the early mid-2000s.
Pearl had the Volunteers rolling with six straight NCAA appearances which was the most consecutive appearances in school history. So you can understand why Vol fans wanted him back, even when Cuonzo Martin was doing pretty good. The key for Barnes is going to be the Vol fans letting him rebuild, because they’re not going to the tournament this year.
The player Kevin Punter turned himself into for his last season will be missed, he changed his release point of his jump shot and became one of the better shooters in the league. He accounted for nearly 23% of the Vols points and the level of scoring impact was important for a team who struggled to score. Armani Moore was a bit of a do-everything player for Tennessee, he was the second leading scorer but more than that his versatility was vital to the Vols being competitive, he also almost single handedly won two games for the Vols in the SEC tournament before running out of steam. Devon Baulkman surprised me a bit with his impact last season, and Derek Reese wasn’t a big scorer but was able to impact the game in other ways. Losing Ray Kasongo and Jabari McGhee to transfer was nothing too surprising as neither played much or had an impact on the season, and transfers seem to happen more frequently when there’s recent coaching turnover.
|Robert Hubbs III||senior||wing||30||.589||.124||.107|
|Lamonte Turner||r-freshman||pg||Redshirt -- academics|
Robert Hubbs III | SENIOR | WING
Rick Barnes has a solid and interesting group of returning players and leading the way is Robert Hubbs. A former 5-star recruit left over from the Cuonzo Martin era, Hubbs has occasionally shown his ability but hasn’t really put it all together enough to feel he’s lived up to the billing. Part of that was getting off on the wrong foot with a shoulder injury as a freshman, another part of it would be the turnover at the head coaching spot he’s endured. If Tennessee is going to have a successful season much of that will be on the back of Hubbs playing like he’s capable on a more consistent basis.
After Hubbs, Admiral Schofield (#AllNameTeam) played a serious role as a freshman and proved, at least, he was physically capable. Schofield is built like a Mack truck at 6’4 and nearly 240 lbs. He’s the sort of big physical guard who can be a matchup problem for anyone. Shembari Phillips certainly looked the part of an SEC athlete, and should be an important player this season. Kyle Alexander didn’t blow anyone away statistically last season but has a world of potential with an incredible wingspan, he’ll be needed on the interior to rebound and defend the rim at a minimum. One guy who flew under the radar a bit was Lamonte Turner, who was one of the better point guard prospects coming out of high school. Turner wasn’t cleared by the NCAA so he was forced to sit out, but he’ll absolutely be counted on the play big minutes and could even be the starter at point guard for the Vols.
Detrick Mostella | JUNIOR | COMBO GUARD
Once upon a time Detrick Mostella was a highly regarded 4-star recruit. After a very quiet freshman year, Mostella played very well last year and became a consistent reliable performer. While increasing his minutes to nearly 20 per game he doubled his output in nearly every statistical category while improving his shooting. The Vols will be looking for more of the same improvement and a breakout season from him if they’re going to move up the standings. Mostella has the ability, he just needs to put it all together.
|Sr||Lew Evans||6'9||230||Grad Transfer -- Utah State||POST|
Rick Barnes loaded up on newcomers in an effort to better craft a roster to his liking, and he got a lot of solid players. The single most exciting name on this list is Kwe Parker who is just electric. Parker has been named one of the best dunkers in the country as a 6’2 guard, and he’s explosive. There are still some parts of his game to be rounded out but Parker is likely to have more than a few highlight clips this year. His high school teammate is Jalen Johnson who is the highest rated recruit coming in this season. He’s a flashy wing who is adept at attacking the rim, but is in need of some weight before being expected to have a major impact. Jordan Bone is a slippery and effective point guard from Nashville who could be thrust into an early job as starting point guard if the chips fall his way. Grant Williams is a big physical post player who is ready to contribute right away, but won’t blow you away with his athleticism. John Fulkerson is a skilled post player with good athleticism who can run the floor and finish in transition. Jordan Bowden was a late bloomer but his another athletic wing with potential. Lew Evans was a role player at Tulsa, then one at Utah State, I’d expect him to be a big body for Rick Barnes, but probably nothing more than a role guy again.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Lamonte Turner||Detrick Mostella||Robert Hubbs III|
|Jordan Bone||Kwe Parker||Jalen Johnson|
|Admiral Schofield||Lew Evans|
|Shembari Phillips||Kyle Alexander|
A lot of players and some weird depths will make for an interesting early season as Barnes sorts things out. The Vols will have plenty of depth on the outside, but after Mostella and Hubbs there isn’t much experience so you don’t know who Barnes can count on. On the flip side, they’re virtually experience-less (aside from Evans) on the interior. I liked them using a big physical guard at the CF spot last year with Armani Moore, and you could see Admiral Schofield potentially filling that role this year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they went for size and started Alexander and Evans together.
My Projected Record 13 - 18 | KenPom Projected Record 13 - 16
Non-Con: @ North Carolina, @ East Tenn St, Wisconsin (n), Oregon/Georgetown (n), Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Chattanooga, Kansas State
Weird scheduling glitch, the Vols could get North Carolina twice! The Tar Heels are on the opposite side of the Maui Invitational bracket along with Oklahoma St and UConn (and Chaminade). The Vols open with Wisconsin and have Oregon and Georgetown in the next round. A road trip to Chapel Hill won’t be very fun, and overall the non-conference schedule is loaded. They play Gonzaga in Nashville and get Georgia Tech at home as well. With this level of competition Tennessee will probably have four or 5 losses before they even see an SEC opponent.
Conference: Kentucky (2x), Ole Miss (2x), Vanderbilt (2x), South Carolina (2x), Mississippi State (2x), @ Texas A&M, @ Florida, @ Auburn, @ LSU
Challenging is how I’d describe this schedule. When you’re rebuilding, you don’t necessarily want to be playing Kentucky twice. However Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Mississippi State are all flawed teams, so garnering a split with each would go a long way towards showing the Vols are improving. However road games against Texas A&M and Florida are sure to be losses, but the road trips to Baton Rouge and Auburn are winnable at least.
The reality is Rick Barnes took over a program in a disastrous state. One that hadn’t fully recovered from the fallout after Bruce Pearl. So last year wasn’t going to be very pretty no matter who Tennessee hired to coach them. The Vols weren’t good a year ago, but they were competitive and aside from a couple games where they fell flat, they were fighting. The problem lies in the amount of production gone from a roster that merely kept the Vols afloat. They were able to fall back on the scoring of Kevin Punter and Armani Moore when all else failed, and that was enough to stay competitive.
So starts the youth movement. Barnes went about finding as much talent as he could to restock the roster and he’s done that part. Using 10 of their 13 available scholarships on freshmen and sophomores there’s not a lot of reason to think the Vols will challenge for postseason play this year. What you do hope to see is the formulation of a vision for the future of Tennessee basketball, a vision Rick Barnes has shown successfully at another orange clad UT school before. There is enough talent there to jump start things though, looking specifically at Hubbs and Mostella. Both could play a role similar to Punter and Moore from last year to buoy the rest of the roster. If they do the rest of the talent around them, while young, is improved over a year ago. So the potential for surprise is there.
A big obstacle for me is their early schedule. It’s nice to see teams challenging themselves but the margin for error is razor thin and if things go a little south it could cause a problem for when they come across their conference slate. With so little depth inside going against teams like North Carolina and Wisconsin and Gonzaga early will be an incredible mountain to overcome. The pressure will be on the experienced hands of Hubbs and Mostella and neither have performed well enough to date to give you any impression they’re ready to lead a competitive SEC team. All of this has the makings of a long winter in Knoxville.
I’m positive about the hiring of Rick Barnes, I’m positive about the players he’s brought in, I’m just not very positive about this being a… what’s it called… a GOOD season for Tennessee. They’ve got a young roster, and I like what they’re doing, but they’re one of a few teams in the SEC who are probably a year or two away from being a good team. Barnes is an experienced coach and I’d expect him to have his guys ready to play and compete on a nightly basis, but they’re going to be short on experience more often than not, and the SEC loves to eat it’s own. So while a .500 record in conference wouldn’t completely shock me, I think they’re much more of a 4-6 win team in the league.
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About the preview: Each SEC site was asked to submit one representative to pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.
If you’d like to submit your picks, here is the Google Form we used:
GP - Games Played
%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury
%pts - percentage of teams points scored
%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team