Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Year’s resolutions for the Tennessee men’s basketball team

 

Planning on tweaking your diet in 2014? What about switching up your wardrobe? Maybe something bigger, like expressing your emotions differently, or stepping outside of your comfort zone?

The Tennessee men’s basketball team can relate.

Well, it can if it listens.

Since it’s so much easier to come up with New Year’s resolutions for others instead of making my own, here are some suggestions for the Vols …

Jordan McRae: Eat healthier 

McRae considers himself an old man these days. The senior guard has traded nights out for evening gym sessions and basketball games on TV. But when he’s not working on his game, he’s usually eating. It’s rarely healthy.

“I want to stop eating Zaxby’s so much,” McRae said. “If we don’t have a game or practice, I’m definitely eating Zaxby’s. Or after practice sometimes.”

UT coach Cuonzo Martin knows better. McRae’s fast food weakness isn’t confined to fried chicken. He’s also a Waffle House regular.

Jarnell Stokes: Play a game sans headband

Stokes’ headband popped off after a hard foul on Monday. I legitimately had a hard time finding him on the court when it happened. If the junior forward started the game without his signature fashion statement, maybe teams would have a harder time finding and double-teaming him?

Jeronne Maymon: Finish the bunnies

The knee injury that sidelined Maymon last season has resulted in a different player. The heart is still there, and that’s a big benefit for the Vols. Proof: Josh Richardson credited Maymon as the main difference between last season’s loss to Virginia and the thumping UT handed the Cavaliers on Monday. But Maymon has developed a knack for missing some shots that should be automatic. There was the blocked layup from behind that changed the game for good against Wichita State. A similar play occurred Monday. The explosion just isn’t there. It doesn’t appear to be coming back, either. Maymon has to find a way to adjust and sink the easy ones.

Robert Hubbs: Make sure the shoulder is good to go

The status of the left shoulder problem that is slowing — or not slowing — the five-star freshman guard is a bit murky. At times Martin has said the injury is not a concern. At other times he has said it’s something the team will examine after the season ends, a comment that encourages speculation of a looming procedure. Hubbs says he injured the non-shooting shoulder during his senior season of high school. For now, the soft brace he wears during games seems to help. But between his freshman and sophomore campaign the Vols should do whatever is necessary to make sure Hubbs is healthy for his UT career.

Rawane ‘Pops’ Ndiaye: Shoot one 3-pointer

It happened again Monday. UT was ahead and the reserves were on the floor as the final minute ticked down. Somehow Ndiaye ended up with his feet on the 3-point arc and the ball in his hands. The crowd clamored for him to shoot it, but the 6-10 center passed it up. Next time Pops should let it fly.

Quinton Chievous: Frustrate the other team for a change

Watch one UT practice and you will see why Chievous is one of the most loved and infuriating players on his team. He’s usually linked to the bumps and bruises guys are nursing after all is said and done. Basically, he is the one you want on your team so you don’t have to play against him. It would be nice to see him beat up on someone not wearing orange.

Brandon Lopez: Make the usher proud

There’s a very nice man who works as an usher near press row during UT games. He’s convinced Lopez could be the Vols’ missing link. When the Knoxville native warms up before games, this gentleman counts the 3-pointers he makes. Sometimes the usher then passes the results along to reporters. Lopez, who played five-plus minutes nine times last season, has appeared in just one game this season. He’ll have to change that trend to prove his biggest fan right.

Cuonzo Martin: Get a tech

In 181 games as a college coach, Martin has never been whistled for a technical. He said he tried to pick one up against N.C. State. The refs let him slide for walking out on the court, though. Here’s a trick that’s sure to bring a T.

Have a resolution that I missed? Let me know in the comments section.

Report: Bruce Pearl says clamor for his return is counterproductive

On Friday, Bruce Pearl delivered a message to those who are pushing for his return to Tennessee: please stop.

“Bruce Pearl told me today that fans wishing for his return is counterproductive to UT’s program and unfair to players and Cuonzo Martin,” Sports Animal host Jimmy Hyams tweeted.

“Pearl said UT fans need to support the program, the players and Martin. He said distractions hurt his last team at Tennessee,” added Hyams in a follow-up tweet.

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Pearl coached the Vols from 2005-11. He compiled a 145-61 record, averaged more than 24 wins per season and led UT to a school-record six consecutive NCAA tournaments, including its first Elite Eight appearance.

But his remarkable run got messy when he ran afoul of NCAA rules and lied about it. Anyone reading this knows the story. Pearl was fired after the 2011 season and given a three-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA. 

The penalty ends in August, which is why some who are frustrated by the Vols’ 6-4 start this season want Pearl back.

Clay Travis of FOX Sports 1 and OutKick The Coverage has fanned the flames by campaigning for the re-hire on his website and radio shows.

Pearl, at least publicly, isn’t on board.

Vols great Allan Houston talks UT hoops, NBA and non-retirement

 

Allan Houston was in Knoxville today for the dedication of the Wade and Allan Houston Courts at Knoxville Christian School. I caught up with the 12 year NBA veteran turned New York Knicks assistant general manager about UT coach Cuonzo Martin, UT fans and the league. 

Asked if he keeps up on the Vols …

“I’m going to get a chance to watch them practice today. I’m looking forward to that. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Cuonzo is just the mindset that he has and the mindset he instills in the players. You have to have that type of mental toughness and identity in today’s sports culture. You just do. Because there’s so many things that can distract you, no matter what level. That’s why I’m looking forward to him being extremely successful.”

Asked for his thoughts on UT fans who are growing restless while waiting for the Vols to get back into the NCAA Tournament …

“I’ve had people get restless with me for 18 years. There’s nothing you can do about that. All you can do is every day approach it like it’s your last and do the best you can.”

Asked if he plans on being an NBA coach one day …

“I’m so blessed doing what I’m doing now. My goal is to help the Knicks win a championship. And not coaching, because that’s not my job right now.”

Asked if his relationship with Knoxville Christian School is a sign he could be headed back to Knoxville after he’s done working …

“Listen, I’ve got seven kids. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop working. I might be working until I’m done … I would love to be active here. I would love to play with the kids here, maybe hold some camps and really help this school. Make it an elite place for kids to not only develop their kids but develop their spirit.”

Chart: Tracking the Vols’ plus/minus scores through November

 

If  you’ve read my colleague Evan Woodbery’s stellar coverage of the Tennessee football team, you are familiar with the array of charts and infographics he produces to help readers visualize data. Since Evan is a swell guy, he introduced me to infogr.am, a user-friendly site that makes numbers come alive. I know what you’re thinking … This could be great for basketball!

Recently I created a pretty simple chart that shows the Tennessee men’s basketball players’ plus/minus average per game through November. Plus/minus is a common stat that compares the team’s point differential when a player is on the court to the team’s point differential when a player is on the bench. Sometimes it’s refereed to as the “with or without you” stat.

Disclaimer: Plus/minus can be a a bit misleading, especially when looked at in single games. Over time though, it helps point out who helps and who hurts. Who is overrated? Who is underrated? Which sub should take a starter’s spot? These are the kinds of questions plus/minus can help answer.

I will update and repost the chart every so often, so we can see how players take steps back or forward during the season.

Here’s what we’ve learned through seven games: The starters are playing better than anyone else, which is to be expected. Darius Thompson has been more impressive than celebrated recruit Robert Hubbs. Rawane Ndiaye seems to be a liability at times.

Click on the chart to enlarge

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D’Montre Edwards has no bar because his average plus/minus is currently zero … Two players are not on the chart. Brandon Lopez and Derek Reese have not played this season. They will be added if/when they do … Due to their proximity to zero, three players’ stats are not displayed on their bars. They are as follows: Quinton Chievous (-0.80), Armani Moore (-0.71) and Robert Hubbs (+1.00).