Monthly Archives: November 2013

Vols’ roller coaster ride at Battle 4 Atlantis will end with Wake Forest


Wake Forest it is. What, you expected Kansas? Maybe in 2014.

It’s been a bizarre weekend for the Vols. They fell on their face Thursday. The 78-70 loss to UTEP was bad, and it looked a lot worse once No. 23 Iowa blew out Tim Floyd’s team 89-53 on Friday. The Hawkeyes probably used more energy trying to get from their rooms to the court — the horde of Kansas fans seems to be growing by the day — than they did sending the Miners to the loser’s bracket.

But wait …

Less than 24 hours after the Vols gave us a pretty convincing reason to write them off, they came back on short sleep and rocked a Xavier team that had already handed UT a four-point loss earlier this season. It wasn’t close. Tennessee hit Xavier early and never let up.

What’s up with the Vols? That’s a great question. And I’m going to have to take a rain check. We’ve seen the good and the bad this weekend and this season. I can only expect the results will continue to swing back and forth inexplicably until I see a sign of things leveling out.

Instead let’s look at Wake Forest, the team the Vols play to end this roller coaster ride of a tournament. The winner gets fifth place! The game is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s on AXS TV. Please don’t be that guy who asks for the channel via Twitter. I’m kidding. Kind of.

Ken Pomeroy says the Demon Deacons (6-1) are the 85th best team in the country. For comparison, UT is ranked 57th. Wake Forest got into this game because it had the poor luck of facing No. 2 Kansas on Thursday; The Jayhawks leaned heavily on their bench and beat the Demon Deacons 87-78. Wake Forest bounced back Friday with a 77-63 win against USC.

What was most impressive about Wake Forest’s win against the fighting Andy Enfields (bad joke, especially this weekend) was how the Demon Deacons did it. Four players hit double-digits: Coron Williams (15), Tyler Cavanaugh (11), Madison Jones (10) and Devin Thomas (10).

And their best player wasn’t even a factor. Codi Miller-McIntyre had scored at least 20 in five of his team’s first six games. He scored just five, and will surely be looking to redeem himself.

The point, I guess, is this: UT might not want to be playing for fifth place, but overlooking Wake Forest could mean the Vols fly home with a losing record in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd addresses, explains altercation with USC’s Andy Enfield

UTEP coach Tim Floyd addressed his Wednesday night argument with USC coach Andy Enfield at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Thursday, after the Miners beat Tennessee 78-80.

Below is Floyd’s answer to a question about the altercation:

“I felt like there was some tampering going on with our McDonald’s All-American, as former. Sure enough three months later he has USC on his Facebook page, backed out of his Letter of Intent. I called and we discussed it in a very serious vein. I said not to turn him in and they wouldn’t take him. But we didn’t end up with him, and that was a lick. And in addition to that I damn sure didn’t appreciate the comments he made last week publicly about the city of El Paso, Texas, where my grandparents were born and raised, where my father was born and raised and played at Texas Western, where I’ve lived 22 years in my life. It’s a fabulous city. My reaction yesterday was more about the city of El Paso than the previous part. I’ll just leave it at that. Beyond that I’m not going to have any more comments down the road. But we’re not going to sit back and just take it in shorts. We’re not going to do it. We’re not going to do it. We’ve done it enough. His comments in that damn magazine were totally inappropriate. Totally inappropriate. So that’s all I’ve got to say, alright? And as far as him saying he was just trying to apologize yesterday? It would have been really nice if he apologized about three weeks ago, when that magazine article came out. Call me and try to do it then. His timing wasn’t very good. It was too late.”

Sparks bound to fly between Enfield, Floyd at Battle 4 Atlantis

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — So if you haven’t heard by now, there were fireworks in  the Bahamas last night.

News of the kerfuffle between USC coach Andy Enfield and UTEP coach Tim Floyd on Wednesday evening was rippling through the resort late last night and this morning. The reception where things popped off was for players, coaches and tournament staff. But college hoops maven Seth Davis was in attendance, apparently pretty close to the two, according to his tweets.

Here’s his recap of the jawing session.

The coaches and media types I talked to were not surprised this happened. It was almost expected. Floyd is an old-school coach who has served his time. He doesn’t tend to care too much about being PR friendly. He’s  probably  been sitting on the Enfield comments for a while, and got a chance to speak his mind when Enfield approached him.

I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope USC and UTEP find themselves playing one another this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!





A Tennessee fan’s guide to the Battle 4 Atlantis

I present a pre Turkey-Day tip: Go easy on the Tryptophan tomorrow if you want to catch the first round of what is shaping up to be a pretty decent college basketball tournament in the Bahamas.

But let’s be honest.

You will ignore my advice wake up from a food coma only to realize the TV remote has been pulled from your greasy grasp by a family member who is determined to watch every minute of the National Dog Show*.

At least that’s how things tend to work in my family, which I will be away from this year while covering the Tennessee men’s basketball team as it plays in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The action on Paradise Island starts Thursday at 1 p.m. and goes until Saturday night (Hit this link for a bracket and TV listings).

I know what you are thinking. It is a tough assignment. I can only hope the weekend I spend watching basketball on the beach will demonstrate the great lengths I will go to serve you, dear reader.

When you awake from your slumber and wonder what you missed, check here. I will regularly update the Fast Break with news, photos and videos on the Vols and their potential opponents. Let’s start now, shall we? Here’s a quick look at every team not named Tennessee that will play in the event.


Conference: Big 12
Coach: Bill Self
Record: 4-0
AP Rank: 2
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 4
(AP Photo)

One to Watch: Joel Embiid. Because everyone with a pulse knows about freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins (he’s the future lottery pick pictured above), let’s switch it up. Embiid, the 7-foot center from Cameroon, is still somewhat new to basketball. But he’s learning fast enough to be projected as a top-10 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. He averages 8.8 points and 8 boards per game.

In a Tweet: The Jayhawks pass and shoot the ball as well as any team in the country, but can they rely on their young stars in a tournament setting?

Wake Forest

Conference: ACC
Coach: Jeff Bzdelik
Record: 5-0
AP Rank: N/A
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 95

One to Watch: Devin Thomas. Codi Miller-McIntyre (18.6) is the scorer but Thomas does more. The sophomore forward averages a double-double (14.4 points, 11.6 rebounds) while making 65 percent of his shots.

In a Tweet: The Demon Deacons can’t shoot all that well, but have dominated opponents on the glass. They could be a tough out on the loser’s side.


Conference: Big East
Coach: Jay Wright
Record: 4-0
AP Rank: 37
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 22

(AP Photo)

One to Watch: Ryan Arcidiacono. That’s pronounced (Arch-ee-dee-AH-coh-no). The point guard who carried the team as a freshman is off to sort of a slow start as a sophomore. He made 1-of-8 from behind the arc in a close win against Delaware on Nov. 22. The Wildcats will likely go down if he doesn’t bounce back.

In a Tweet: If Arcidiacono hits his stride while JayVaughn Pinkston (20.3 ppg) and James Bell (18 ppg) stay hot, this team might scare KU.


Conference: Pac-12
Coach: Andy Enfield
Record: 4-1
AP Rank: N/A
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 130

One to Watch: Byron Wesley. The junior guard has pretty much doubled his production from last season (19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds). He could use some help.

In a Tweet: Enfield likes to ruffle feathers. Now he might get a chance to coach against a guy he has previously barbed. Let’s hope USC-UTEP happens.


Conference: C-USA
Coach: Tim Floyd
Record: 3-2
AP Rank: N/A
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 105

One to Watch: McKenzie Moore. The junior guard averages 14 points, 4.8 rebounds and three assists, but sat out of UTEP’s last game due to a concussion. He’s on the trip, according to the team. But will he play?

In a Tweet: The Miners need to be at full strength to stand a chance. No Moore could mean trouble in Paradise.


Conference: Big East
Coach: Chris Mack
Record: 5-0
AP Rank: 37
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 29
(AP Photo)

One to Watch: Semaj Christon. Tennessee knows all about Christon. He lit the Vols up for 18 in UT’s season-opening loss. Shut him down and the Musketeers look a lot less dangerous.

In a Tweet: It’s tough to beat the same team twice. The Musketeers will find themselves trying to do just that if they beat Iowa and UT beats UTEP.


Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Fran McCaffery
Record: 5-0
AP Rank: 23
Ken Pomeroy Rank: 15
(AP Photo)

One to Watch: Roy Devyn Marble. The senior guard can score (14.6 points), pass (3.8 assists) and rob you blind (3.2 steals).

In a Tweet: The Hawkeyes play fast. They average about 74 possessions per game and have twice passed the 100-point mark. Will it hold up against tougher teams?

*Now back to the important stuff. The National Dog Show is a sham. The Old English Sheepdog should win every time, no questions asked. For proof, see below …


Cuonzo Martin likes Vols’ two point guard look


Reading into a team’s rotation during a blowout win isn’t always the smartest thing — unless the coach says differently. That happened after the Vols beat The Citadel 86-60 on Monday, sometimes playing two point guards together while doing so.

“I’ve always been a guy to like four guards on the perimeter,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It’s easier in most aspects. You drive, penetrate and clear the lane. Guys can drive the basketball, and that frees posts up as well.”

Make no mistake: Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are going to get their minutes this season. And Monday was unique because a) Martin wanted to rest the two since they played a ton — a combined 67 minutes — in UT’s tough win against USC Upstate last Saturday and b) The Vols didn’t need their heaviest hitters to beat The Citadel, a team picked to finish last in the Southern Conference.

But Monday showed Martin isn’t afraid to go small. He also tipped his hand on one a pairing he already likes  — freshman point guard Darius Thompson and senior point guard Antonio Barton.

“As Darius goes, he gets better and better,” Martin said. “He has a real good feel for the game. He can make shots. He can pass the ball. He has a good pace to his game.”

Martin tested the two-point guard look with 9:23 to play in the first half. After they played two more stints together in the second, Barton and Thompson finished the night having been on the court together for about 9 minutes.

Barton finished with 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal. Thompson scored six, along with two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Thompson’s 22-minutes were the most he’s played this season. Teaming up with Barton made it possible.

“At times it can be a case of Antonio is in, Darius is out,” Martin said. “When Antonio is playing 30 minutes, Darius is only playing 10. So for us it’s getting those minutes, getting Jordan (McRae) of his feet, so we can have two ball handlers and two guys that can make shots. That’s the way we can get Darius more minutes. I think he needs to be on the floor because he understands how to play.”

The two traded duties when it came to bringing the ball up the court. Barton, who played off the ball a decent amount before transferring from Memphis, sometimes shifted to the wing. He has said previously he is “a true point guard”, but he didn’t appear to mind the freshman running the show for a period of time.

“This is actually the first time me and Darius have been on the same court together,” Barton said. “In practice we are always going against each other. To be out there at the same time, allowing him to get comfortable and being the one-two -punch, it felt good.”

Cuonzo Martin’s extended take on four newest Vols

Cuonzo Martin took a moment before Friday’s practice to discuss in detail the four-man recruiting class Tennessee secured for the 2014-15 season. Here are his  extended comments on each new Vol, along with some highlight videos.

Larry Austin Jr. / 6-1 guard

Martin: “Larry Austin is a talented young guy. He can really defend the ball. He has a rep for defending. He’s one of the better high school defenders. Strong body. Fast with the ball. An athletic point guard. But he loves to defend. He’s a guy who is a pass-first point guard. He gets in the lane and finds guys. He has a good pull-up for a high school kid. I think if there’s any area of improvement, it’s shooting the 3-point shot. It’s not the case that he can’t make it. But he doesn’t shoot a lot of them. He’s able to get to the rim as a high school player.”

Phil Cofer/ 6-8 forward

Martin: “He runs, jumps and blocks shots. He has a tremendous motor. He plays and competes. He’s one of those guys who is non-stop. You call him the Energizer bunny because he is going and going and going. He doesn’t stop. He has a relentless work ethic on both ends of the floor … His mom and dad wanted him to make the decision. A lot of schools were on him. But his dad said it was his decision, and we respected that. Phil just felt like he wanted to be here. We recruited him for a long time.

Jordan Cornish / 6-4 guard

Martin: “A strong, physical guard. In his younger days he was known as a shooter, but he’s really enhanced his game as far as making moves off the dribble. I think that’s where he’s gotten better … He knows how to post. He likes posting up. He has a lot of tools to him as a basketball player. Obviously he has to grow as a freshman. Every guy comes in different. But he has the body and the frame. He works out all the time, and I think that helps.”

CJ Turman / 6-8 center

Martin: “A physical presence. An athletic, explosive guy. More of a back-to-the-basket big guy. But he’s improving his face-up game. Another guy with a good motor to him for his size.”

Knoxville native Ty Greene excited to play hometown Vols


Ty Greene grew up rooting for the Vols. On Saturday, he will get a chance to play them.

“He’s a huge Tennessee fan,” USC Upstate men’s basketball coach Eddie Payne told the News Sentinel Sports Page on Thursday. “I think there’s a great deal of excitement. So, if he takes a couple of bad shots or something like that because he is too hyped, I will have to overlook it for a while.”

Greene, a 6-foot-3 junior guard for the Spartans, is a Knoxville native who starred at Bearden High School. He averaged 11.4 points as a freshman in 2011 and earned Atlantic Sun freshman of the year. Last season he scored 12.6 points per game. And now, two games into his junior season, he is averaging 19. USC Upstate (1-1) plays UT (0-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

“Being a local kid, over the past few years we’ve heard people talk about him,” UT assistant men’s basketball coach Kent Williams told the Sports Page on Thursday. “He’s had a very impressive first two years at Upstate, and an even a better start here.”

Williams said Greene was already committed to USC Upstate when current men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff got to town. Payne is happy about that. And while Greene won’t be wearing orange on Saturday, it sounds like there will be plenty of people cheering him on.

“I know it’s going to be a pretty large group,” Payne said.

Be sure to check Sunday’s News Sentinel for sports intern Gage Arnold’s feature on Greene.

McRae, Stokes make Wooden Award preseason top 50

Two Tennessee men’s basketball players are on the short list for college basketball’s most prestigious annual award.

Senior guard Jordan McRae and junior forward Jarnell Stokes appeared on the John R. Wooden Award preseason watch list released Tuesday.

Below is the full list of 50 players, which for the first time includes freshmen and transfers. It will fluctuate as the season progresses, as voters factor in conference tournaments and postseason play. The final winner will be considered “The Outstanding College Basketball Player in the United States.”

No UT men’s player has ever received the award.

Here’s the Vols’ competition.

Jordan Adams/UCLA/Pac-12/6-5/So./G
Kyle Anderson/UCLA/Pac-12/6-9/So./G/F
Keith Appling/Michigan State/Big Ten/6-1/Sr./G
Isaiah Austin/Baylor/Big 12/7-1/So./C
Jahii Carson/Arizona State/Pac-12/5-10/So./G
Willie Cauley-Stein/Kentucky/SEC/7-0/So./F
Semaj Christon/Xavier/Big East/6-3/So./G
Aaron Craft/Ohio State/Big Ten/6-2/Sr./G
Sam Dekker/Wisconsin/Big Ten/6-7/So./F
Spencer Dinwiddie/Colorado/Pac-12/6-6/Jr./G
Cleanthony Early/Wichita State/Missouri Valley/6-8/Sr./F
Joel Embiid/Kansas/Big 12/7-0/Fr./C
C.J. Fair/Syracuse/ACC/6-8/Sr./F
Aaron Gordon/Arizona/Pac-12/6-9/Fr./F
Jerian Grant/Notre Dame/Big Sky/6-5/Sr./G
Montrezl Harrell/Louisville/The American/6-8/So./F
Gary Harris/Michigan State/Big Ten/6-4/So./G
Joe Harris/Virginia/ACC/6-6/Sr./G
Andrew Harrison/Kentucky/SEC/6-6/Fr./G
Tyler Haws/BYU/WCC/6-5/Jr./G
Andre Hollins/Minnesota/Big Ten/6-2/Jr./G
Rodney Hood/Duke/ACC/6-8/So./F
Joe Jackson/Memphis/The American/6-1/Sr./G
Cory Jefferson/Baylor/Big /12/6-9/Sr./F
Sean Kilpatrick/Cincinnati/The American/6-4/Sr./G
Alex Kirk/New Mexico/Mountain West/7-0/Jr./C
James Michael McAdoo/North Carolina/ACC/6-9/Jr./F
Doug McDermott*#/Creighton/Big East/6-8/Sr./F
Mitch McGary/Michigan/Big/Ten/6-10/So./F
Jordan McRae/Tennessee/SEC/6-6/Sr./G
Shabazz Napier/Connecticut/The American/6-1/Sr./G
Kevin Pangos/Gonzaga/WCC/6-2/Jr./G
Jabari Parker/Duke/ACC/6-8/Fr./F
Adreian Payne/Michigan State/Big Ten/6-10/Sr./C
Elfrid Payton/Louisiana/Sun Belt/6-3/Jr./G
Dwight Powell/Stanford/Pac-12/6-10/Sr./F
Julius Randle/Kentucky/SEC/6-9/Fr./F
Juvonte Reddic/VCU/Atlantic/10/6-9/Sr./F
Glenn Robinson III/Michigan/Big Ten/6-6/So./F
LaQuinton Ross/Ohio State/Big Ten/6-8/Jr./F
Wayne Selden, Jr./Kansas/Big 12/6-5/Fr./G
Marcus Smart/Oklahoma State/Big 12/6-4/So./G
Russ Smith/Louisville/The American/6-0/Sr./G
Jarnell Stokes/Tennessee/SEC/6-8/Jr./F
Rasheed Sulaimon/Duke/ACC/6-4/So./G
Noah Vonleh/Indiana/Big Ten/6-10/Fr./F
Dez Wells/Maryland/ACC/6-5/Jr./G/F
Andrew Wiggins/Kansas/Big 12/6-8/Fr./G
Kendall Williams/New Mexico/Mountain West/6-4/Sr./G
James Young/Kentucky/SEC/6-6/Fr./G

Antonio Barton ready to show he’s a ‘true point guard’


Will Barton nearly scoffed.

The Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard knows basketball. He also knows his brother. If there’s anyone who can speak with authority on Antonio Barton’s game, Will Barton believes it’s him.

So when I wondered how Antonio Barton’s mixed role at Memphis might affect his ability to be the Tennessee men’s basketball team’s starting point guard this season, Will Barton rejected it like, well, like this.

“I’ve played with him my whole life,” he told me while I was interviewing him for a feature that ran in Sunday’s News Sentinel. “I know he is a true point guard.”

Antonio Barton played in 32 games and started 12 in he and Will Barton’s first season together at Memphis (2010-11).  He logged the third-most minutes on the team and averaged 8.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

“If I were to do things over, I would have went to Memphis my freshman year, but I think I would have left after my freshman year,” Antonio Barton told me during our interview. “I had a hell of a freshmen year. I came in. Nobody really knew me. And I actually took the starting position. So, I would have rethought it and moved on earlier to go into another starting spot. Because my years after that, it kind of just went downhill.”

“It was just a hot and cold situation,” he added. “Just how the ball was rolling. Some days, it was my day. Some days, it wasn’t. I was on a short leash there, so I wasn’t able to play my full game.”

Antonio Barton averaged 21.9 minutes as a sophomore (2011-12) and 16.7 as a junior (2012-13). Some untimely injuries — he hurt his left hand in 2012 and fractured his right foot in 2013 — made reversing the decline more difficult. Plus, Memphis was stacked with talent at the guard positions, including point guard Joe Jackson who decided to return to Memphis for this season instead of entering the NBA draft. Sometimes the minutes that did come Antonio Barton’s way were off the ball, where he could put his 40-percent 3-point shooting to use.

This is why it’s somewhat reasonable to wonder how well Barton will adjust to a job that asks him to both facilitate a transition game while also finding ways to feed UT’s big men, Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon.

Wait and see is really the only answer, and we shouldn’t have to wait long. Antonio Barton has been cleared to play in Tuesday’s season opener at Xavier after sitting out most every recent practice with a sprained left foot and tweaked left knee. He won’t start against the Musketeers, but will likely replace freshman point guard Darius Thompson sooner rather than later.

When that time comes, Will Barton isn’t even a little worried about how it will go.

“The situation in Memphis, he was asked to do things for the better of the team,” he said. “He would play point guard one day, then one day he would play off the ball. That’s because it was what was best for Memphis, to help win games. In high school he always played point guard. In AAU he always played point guard. He was always successful. He led us to a high school season where we were undefeated. He was the point guard. He ran the show. I know what he is capable of. Now, at Tennessee, he will get to show that again.”

Even Memphis coach Josh Pastner thinks it will work out just fine.

“He’s going to be a great starting point guard at Tennessee,” he said. “He is going to help that team. He’s a senior who started here. He’s going to start there at Tennessee, and he’s going to be really good for them.”

And Antonio Barton is more than ready.

“If you look at this team down the whole roster, we are complete at every position,” he said. “We have a two-guard, a small forward, power forward, and we have a bench. My whole thing was I was the missing piece — the point guard position.”

Updated: Darius Thompson will start at Xavier; Antonio Barton will play

Freshman Darius Thompson will start at point guard for the Tennessee men’s basketball team in Tuesday’s season opener at Xavier, UT coach Cuonzo Martin said before the Vols left for the airport Monday evening.

Senior point guard Antonio Barton, who had until Saturday been sidelined with a sprained left foot and tweaked left knee sustained in a practice on Oct. 25, will come off the bench.

“I expect Antonio to play tomorrow,” Martin said. “He looked fine in practice. He has practiced since Saturday. He looked pretty good, so we will see. But he will definitely play.”

“Right now we will go with Darius unless something changes,” Martin added.

During a question and answer session at the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday, Martin addressed the status of senior forward Jeronne Maymon. Martin said Maymon will be limited to approximately 20 minutes per game to start the season. Maymon redshirted last season due to a left knee injury.

“I think he has a way to go,” Martin said of Maymon. “And when I say ‘way to go’ I mean playing in game situations. When you are out 15 to 18 months, that’s a long time to be out,  even though you’ve been on the treadmills … The conditioning, you can get it all day long. But you don’t get the cuts and the banging, the physical part of it.”

Martin recalled having his third knee surgery headed into his senior season at Purdue. He didn’t feel like he was truly back to being himself on the court until the 12th or 13th game.

“You’re also talking about a guy who is 260 pounds,” Martin said. “He’s toting a lot of weight. And the way he plays, he moves a lot. He’s not somebody who just goes down and posts up. We’ve got to do a good job of making sure he is fresh in games.”