Tennessee Basketball Preview

Tennessee Basketball 2016-17 Season Preview

It’s going to be a long season in Knoxville, once again.

Tennessee Basketball is a proud program, but this is a very young team.  Tennessee is fun to watch because they will play at a fast pace, which is an adjustment to their roster composition.  Rick Barnes is a caretaker coach who is looking to turnaround his wife’s alma mater and that means if Tennessee is not doing so well, he will hear about it in Big Orange Country all the time.

Tennessee’s Scholarship Depth Distribution

Seven freshmen and ten out of thirteen scholarships filled are by sophomores and freshmen.  That’s a winning equation at Kentucky, not Tennessee.

Want to know more about Rick Barnes’ career?  Great!  Check out last season’s preview.

Tennessee had a rough season due to their leaky defense and non-existent post presence.  Tennessee was starting Admiral Schofield as their lead post, he’s 6’4″.  Tennessee’s offense was actually quite efficient with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 109.9, good enough for 74th in the country and 6th in the conference.  Their adjusted defensive efficiency was 102.6, which was 151st in the country and 12th in the conference.  Tennessee was also 12th in the conference in the standings.

Tennessee closed their season in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals losing to LSU and handing Vanderbilt and Auburn losses.  LSU would follow up their win over Tennessee by quitting on the season in the first Semifinal Game of the SEC Tournament, which drew an incredibly negative reaction.  ESPN personalities expressed how they wanted Tennessee to come back and play the game against Texas A&M at Halftime as opposed to LSU.

Tennessee’s Roster, Lost Contributions and Featured Members of the Roster

Armani Moore, the leader of last season’s team is gone.  Moore was a Swiss Army Knife for Tennessee and he experienced quite a bit during his tenure in Knoxville, he will be missed.  Kevin Punter made the most of his one season in Knoxville, but it did not result in an NCAA Tournament berth.

Devon Baulkman and Kevin Punter were the most important three point shooters last season and they are gone.  Both graduated and ran out of seasons of eligibility.  Now the team has a completely different complexion altogether.  There will be student-athletes to take plenty of three point shots and make contributions, but they will be far less experienced and with youth there’s plenty of good and bad.  This is a team that is unbalanced in their scholarship depth distribution.

Shembari Phillips is the leading returning three point shooter on this team, he is also pretty decent in the mid-range off the dribble.  Detrick Mostella took a lot of his shots from three point range, but he’s was below average from long range.  Robert Hubbs III is most effective in the restricted arc, but he takes his shots in the mid-range as well.

Tennessee liked to run last season and they took 21.6% of their shots in transition, but it did not make much of a difference compared to their half court effective Field Goal percentage.  It’s a bit mind-boggling how Tennessee was rather inefficient in their shot selection and yet still had such a high adjusted offensive efficiency.  Tennessee was 42nd in field goal percentage in the anti-money zone, which is between 4 and 20 feet from the basket.

Tennessee was a good Free Throw shooting team as well and was 72nd in the country as far as that distinction is concerned.   In conference play, Tennessee was 75.1% from the Free Throw Line and #1 in the SEC.  They took the most Field Goals and took the second least Free Throws in conference play.  They were 12th in Field Goal percentage at 40.2%.

Featured Members of the Tennessee Basketball Roster

Robert Hubbs III

Robert Hubbs III is playing for his third coach and he has played much better for Rick Barnes.  Hubbs is a terrible  shooter and he is an effective driver, but yet he chooses to take three point shots and mid-range shots more often.  Rick Barnes needs to set Hubbs up for more opportunities to cut to the basket or get free off a flex cut.

Is Hubbs critical to Tennessee’s success?  Absolutely.  When Hubbs scored 14 or more points in a game, the Vols were 7-1.  Hubbs needs to get to the Free Throw Line more.  When he took three or more Free Throws last season, Tennessee was 9-4.

Hubbs’ defense is non-existent and he is an easy matchup for an opponent if Tennessee plays man-to-man. Rick Barnes typically plays man-to-man, but due to their size limitations Rick Barnes had to play more zone like his predecessor.  There was a less of a gambler’s mentality on defense from this Tennessee team than under Donnie Tyndall.

Detrick Mostella

Detrick Mostella is the most relevant returning shooter on the Tennessee Volunteers.  He takes the most three point shots and thus is worthy of discussion.  Mostella is not a good three point shooter, but he did improve from his first season.  It is possible that Mostella becomes an average three point shooter, but is that in the cards this season?

When Mostella scores in double digits, Tennessee is often winning.  10-4 record last season with losses at Georgia, on a neutral site against Gonzaga and LSU and at home against Texas A&M.

Defensively, Mostella is irrelevant and he should improve in Barnes’ second season, but how much?  He was rather bad last season.

Lew Evans

Lew Evans has attended two different programs and now he’s at Tennessee.  Evans is a Combo Forward who can do things that actual post players do.  Evans can rebound and post-up inside.  He has a tendency to foul a bit and is not a shot blocker, but baby steps in attracting post talent to Knoxville.

Evans is not a particularly strong finisher at the rim.  If he takes a shot in the restricted arc, there’s a 50% chance it goes in.

The case can be made that Admiral Schofield, although very undersized is a more effective post presence.  However, Lew Evans has size.  After all, he’s 6’9″, right?

Maybe not.

Utah State must exaggerate the height of their student-athletes like the way professional wrestling organizations would.

Expected Starting Lineup for the Tennessee Volunteers

PG:  Jordan Bone

SG:  Detrick Mostella

3G:  Robert Hubbs III

PF:  Kyle Alexander

PF:  Lew Evans

What to Expect from Tennessee

Not much.  Tennessee is likely to finish 13th in the conference, their peak may be 11th and their floor could certainly be last, which would make Kim Anderson somewhat happier.  Tennessee is an extremely young team and they do not have the chemistry, experience nor composure to be considered competitive.  Tennessee is a fun team to watch, but they are not going to win many games this season.

Tennessee will likely be upset on opening night by a much more experienced Chattanooga team.  A Freshman Point Guard against Chattanooga’s press is asking for trouble.  Tennessee will play in the Maui Invitational and serve themselves up as a sacrifice to some of the top teams in the country and at some point face Chaminade.  Tennessee will face the likely loser of the Oregon-Georgetown and then probably face Chaminade in the seventh place game.

Tennessee faces hapless Georgia Tech in Knoxville and in this game, Tennessee may actually have the edge over Georgia Tech.  Tennessee has better talent and a better coach despite the inexperience.  Thompson-Boling Arena may factor into this one.

The Vols will visit Chapel Hill and get slaughtered.  Lipscomb could be a challenge for Tennessee and also serve as a look-ahead game because look who’s next, Gonzaga.  East Tennessee State is not a slouch team either under Steve Forbes and Tennessee better bring their ‘A’ game or else they may lose this one.

Tennessee will win a few games, but it is going to be tough to get them.  Four of their first six games are on the road against Texas A&M, Florida, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.  The home games in this stretch are against a team that presses a lot, Arkansas and the extremely physical South Carolina Gamecocks.

Tennessee will be in the Big XII-SEC Challenge and they draw Kansas State.  Bruce Weber will be coaching for his job this season and they should be better than last season’s team.

It is hard to see Tennessee having a strong season, but it is an opportunity for the Class of 2016 to grow.  Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bone stand out as the two that could be the breakout candidates, but there’s not enough here.  Tennessee will be playing in the SEC Tournament once again on a Wednesday.

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