#15 Tennessee: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #3 Southeastern Conference
2009-10: 28-9, 11-5
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Bruce Pearl (126-46 at Tennessee, 443-130 overall)
Once the season starts, Tennessee will be able to put all the unpleasantness surrounding Coach Bruce Pearl’s recruiting issues behind them and concentrate on playing basketball.. for at least a few weeks. Those issues will come back and haunt the program come SEC play, when Pearl is suspended for the first 8 games, and perhaps more substantially later on, but for now this is a very talented team that will sneak up on most of their competition. Despite losing 4 starters, there is a ton of talent that was sitting on the bench last year and a very nice group of newcomers that are ready to make a huge impact and take the Vol’s deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Key Losses: C Wayne Chism, G Bobby Maze, G J.P. Prince, F Tyler Smith
Tobias Harris highlights the group of newcomers. The 6-8 freshman may have a starting job waiting for him from day one if he can live up to the hype. He is a tough power forward who will do his job in the paint, but he also has a very nice touch on his jump shot and will stretch out the opposing defense. The frontcourt gets more help with John Fields. The journeyman ended up at Tennessee for his senior season after a couple of other Division I stops, but he is ready to make the most of his shot at the big time. The 6-9 forward is a beast on the glass and his experience should go a long way. Jeronne Maymon, a transfer from Marquette, will be eligible to add even more depth to the frontcourt after the first semester. Defensive specialist and long range threat Jordan McCrae and driving threat Trae Golden will battle for minutes on the perimeter during their freshmen campaigns.
Melvin Goins has the job of running the offense and finding the new go-to-scorers on this team. Goins will not do much scoring on his own, but he is a capable outside shooter and a shutdown defender. The 5-11 senior has plenty of experience and is ready to take over the starting job. Cameron Tatum will have to be the new shooter on the team after spending most of last season coming in off of the bench. Tatum has pretty much been a pure shooter thus far in his collegiate career, but at 6-6 he has the size to attack the basket and will have to do a little more of that. In the meantime, Scotty Hopson can get to the rim and use his 6-7 frame to finish above the rim. Hopson is also a dangerous outside shooter. He will be this group’s main scoring threat, but with a little more consistency on his jump shot, Hopson has the skill to win conference of the year accolades. Add Josh Bone and shooter Skylar McBee to the mix and this is a deep and talented backcourt even without Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince.
It is at the power forward spot where the lineup starts getting interesting. Coach Pearl has a ton of options. Steven Pearl is a good defender and rebounder, but a little undersized for the four spot. Renaldo Woolridge and Kenny Hall will battle it out with the newcomers for the starting spot. Woolridge is more of a wing than a power forward, but at 6-8 he certainly has the size to play just about anywhere. The junior does not lack in strength either and can certainly do his part on the glass. Hall is not a dynamic athlete like Woolridge, but he is pretty mobile for a 6-8, 220 pound post player who spends most of his time in the paint. Coach Pearl will have a bevy of options and can mix and match the forwards depending on the competition and the hot hand.
Who to Watch:
The staple in the frontcourt will be 6-10 center Brian Williams. Williams is the big body who will bang around in the paint. He may not replace Wayne Chism’s productivity in the scoring department, but is not a bad interior threat. What Williams will do as well as Chism is hit the glass and play solid defense. As long as Williams can stay productive as an interior scoring threat, this will be a dynamic frontcourt that will be tough to stop for most teams.
It may not take long for Tennessee to climb out from under the radar. With the recruiting allegations circling around, everybody is talking about the Volunteers anyway, but sooner rather than later the talk will be about how good of a basketball team Tennessee has right now. By March Coach Pearl could be marching his team back to the Elite Eight.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Melvin Goins, Senior, Guard, 5.3 ppg
Cameron Tatum, Junior, Guard, 7.4 ppg
Scotty Hopson, Junior, Guard, 12.2 ppg
Kenny Hall, Sophomore, Forward, 3.6 ppg
Brian Williams, Senior, Center, 5.6 ppg
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