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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

October 10th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball

 

Tennessee Volunteers

 

Overall Rank: #31

Conference Rank: #4 SEC

 

2005-06: 22-8, 12-4, 1st East

2005-06 postseason: NCAA

 

Coach Bruce Pearl and his Tennessee squad were one of the more pleasant surprises last year winning the SEC East handily over teams like Florida and Kentucky.  The frontcourt was a concern last year, but it will be a bigger issue this season.

 

Who’s Out: Starting center Major Wingate won’t return to Knoxville for his senior season after averaging 10.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest.  Also gone is part-time starter Andre Patterson, who led the squad with 6.7 rebounds per game and tacked on 9.4 per contest in the scoring column.  Point guard C.J. Watson averaged 15.3 points and 3.9 assists and will leave the show running duties to an inexperienced successor.  Stanley Asumnu earned 15 starts and averaged 8.0 points per game and little used Eddie DeBro has also run out of eligibility. 

 

Who’s In: There are some obvious needs coming out of this class.  Duke Crews and Wayne Chism will look to take over the starting jobs up front.  Crews is a highly touted recruit out of Hampton, Virginia who is an amazing athlete and finisher.  At 6-7, he’s not a true post player and doesn’t play like a true post player, but he can work nicely with his teammates up front and is a monster on the glass.  Chism has a nice mid-range shot, but needs to work on his interior scoring.  He has the strength to battle inside and the offseason development of a post move or two will be helpful.  Tony Passley averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds at Redlands Community College in California during the 2004-2005 season.  After redshirting last year, the 6-5 forward is ready to battle for some minutes at the four.  Marques Johnson might have to use his size to play the four spot this year.  At 6-5, the shooting guard might become an emergency option if injuries or foul trouble plagues the other newcomers.  Ideally, Johnson is slashing and shooting from the wing, but that’s the one spot where the Volunteers don’t need much help.  Ramar Smith might end up being the most talented newcomer.  The 6-2, 200 pound Detroit, Michigan native is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, but has the skills to excel at both, especially with an uptempo style of play.  Smith can attack the rim and create for his teammates quite well.  His long range shot is inconsistent and the defense needs a little Coach Pearl discussion, but Smith will develop into a great player, hopefully sooner than later for the sake of Tennessee fans.  Josh Tabb will battle for minutes in the backcourt and could see significant minutes running the point if the job falls to him.

 

Who to Watch: If it weren’t for Chris Lofton, this team wouldn’t be near the top 25.  After averaging 17.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a sophomore, the sharpshooting 6-2 wing will take even more of a leadership role as an upperclassmen.  Lofton has worked on other aspects of his game and that will go a long way in helping his team.  Dane Bradshaw was the often overlooked piece to the Tennessee squad.  The 6-4 guard started all 30 contests and averaged 7.4 points per game; however, it is his 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists that make Bradshaw an important player.  His versatility will once again prove useful to the Vols.  JaJuan Smith spent last season providing a spark off the bench and he may take on that role once again.  The 6-2 junior is the main long range threat outside of Lofton and averaged 9.5 points per game last season.  Jordan Howell saw limited action in all 30 games and could see some minutes as a backup point guard.

 

Final Projection: The frontcourt has nearly nothing returning, although Bradshaw can be a very undersized four if Coach Pearl opts for a four guard lineup, which could happen at times.  Ryan Childress isn’t out of the equation after averaging just 5.9 minutes per game as a freshman.  The frontcourts inexperience will cause problems, but the talent level is better than it was a year ago.  Still, we are talking about freshmen and expectations shouldn’t be placed on Chism and Crews.  If the big guys can hold their own, Tennessee is a top 25 team.  There might be some issues early, which will keep the Volunteers on the outside looking in, but by March, Coach Pearl will have his group ready to for a run.

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA

 

Projected Starting Five:

Ramar Smith, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season

Chris Lofton, Junior, Guard, 17.2 points per game

Dane Bradshaw, Senior , Guard, 7.1 points per game

Duke Crews, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

Wayne Chism, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

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