Monthly Archives: March 2014

Three keys for Vols vs. Michigan on Friday


1. Can Josh Richardson slow down Nik Stauskas?

If you haven’t heard, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas is really stinking good. The sophomore averages 17.4 points per game, shoots 47.3 percent from the field and 45.1 percent from three. He also good for 3.3 assists per night.

“Nick Stauskas is a great player,” Josh Richardson said Tuesday. “He shoots threes. He drives to the hole. He can do pretty much everything. So, it will be a tough cover again. I think their offense pretty much flows through him. He leads them in points and assists. It will be crucial to try to get him out of his rhythm.”

Richardson, the first player UT has landed on the SEC’s all-defensive team since 2008, will try to do exactly that. He has had some impressive performances in the second half of the season, holding Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom (13.6 ppg) to a season-low four points, Auburn’s Chris Denson (19.1) to a season-low three and Missouri’s Jabari Brown (19.9) to a season-low eight.

This will probably be his toughest challenge, and he’s up for it.

“It’s just another player,” Richardson said. “I’ve been guarding guys like that for a while now. It’s nothing new.”

2. Who has the advantage, Jeronne Maymon or Glenn Robinson III?

Of Michigan’s starting five, Jordan Morgan (6-8, 250 pounds) is the only true big. Obviously, Jarnell Stokes will draw that assignment. But what is intriguing is the matchup between Maymon (6-8, 260) and GRIII (6-6, 220).

“For them, they think they have a mismatch with Glenn and Jeronne,” Jordan McRae said Tuesday. “We also think we have a mismatch with Jeronne and Glenn. It will be interesting to see what they do.”

Maymon (9.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is a bruise brother (Yeah, that’s apparently a thing now). He’s taken one 3-pointer all season — it didn’t go in — and prefers to hang out down low. According to Hoop-Math, 72.9 percent of Maymon’s shots are at the rim, meaning they’re layups or put-backs.

Meanwhile GRIII (13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) roams. Only 24.2 percent of his shots are at the rim. Often, those come in transition (see here). He’ll also shoot the three, though not very well. His 3-point percentage has dropped from 32.4 percent to 28.6 percent since last season.

Can Maymon keep up with faster, lighter forward who is going to want to run and jump and shoot from all over? Can GRIII grab rebounds and hold his own on defense against a bigger, stronger traditional big?

Interesting indeed.

3. Which way will the whistles blow?

Through three NCAA tournament games, the Vols have averaged 29 free throw attempts per game. Their opponents have averaged 12, if you round up. UT is making the difference hurt, too. It’s shot 82.8 percent from the stripe in tournament play. Leading the charge is Jarnell Stokes, who has made 25 of 29 free throws in the tournament. Right now his free-throw percentage has increased 13 percent since last season; it’s now up to 69.7 percent.

“I feel like Jarnell gets fouled every time down there,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I really do. I’m not saying that to say the officials are bad. But, because he’s so big and his lower body is so strong, you don’t move him, sometimes they don’t make the call. But, I think in the NCAA tournament, the calls are being made more so than probably in other settings.”

If things stay that way in Indianapolis, it will benefit the Vols. But know that Michigan rarely fouls. The Wolverines average just 17.1 per game.

Vols coach Cuonzo Martin shares opinions on NCAA tournament bracket

After he discussed his first NCAA tournament invite as a head coach on Sunday evening, Cuonzo Martin got around to his views on the 68-team bracket. Some of his comments will probably cause some ripples, especially among N.C. State fans who reacted on Twitter to Martin saying he was surprised the Wolf Pack — a team that beat UT 65-58 in Knoxville this season — made the cut. Here’s what Martin had to say:

On the Vols being among the last four teams in…

“I thought we would probably have a better seed than the one we had, yes … I guess the best way to do it is to try to win every game you play. Because when you talk about the BPI, you have a 31 BPI, a 42 RPI. Then you look at some of the other teams. You just have to keep rolling.”

On Kentucky getting a No. 8 seed and the SEC getting three teams in the dance …

“I didn’t agree with Kentucky getting an eight. Especially when you’ve got the No. 1 team (Florida) in the country in your league. Kentucky got an eight. When Arkansas beat Kentucky twice it was obviously such a great win for Arkansas. Now it doesn’t look so good for Kentucky. I don’t understand that. And then to get three teams in, I don’t know. I don’t know.”

On his surprise N.C. State was selected …

“I didn’t understand that one. When you look at body of work, look at RPI, strength of schedule, I didn’t understand it.”

For what it’s worth, NCAA tournament selection committee Ron Wellman told reporters in a teleconference on Sunday — Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal has the whole transcript here — that that game in Knoxville played a role in N.C. State being selected as the last team to make the NCAA tournament.

“N.C. State, as I said earlier, we try to identify differentiators, things that are either very positive or negative about certain teams,” Wellman said. “The positive factor for NC State was that they had three wins against top 50 teams away from home. Not only did they beat those top 50 teams but they did it on the road. Road wins against top 50 teams are really, really impressive to the Committee. So that probably was the one factor that was most prominent in terms of NC State. They beat Syracuse and they beat Pitt and Tennessee all on the road or at a neutral site, the neutral site being the Syracuse win in the ACC tournament.”

Jarnell Stokes moves up in mock draft, says he’s not thinking about NBA


After he secured his 18th double-double of the season in a runaway win against Missouri on Saturday, Jarnell Stokes heard the question again. The delivery varies. The gist of the query remains the same.

Will he be gone after this season?

Stokes’ future has often been the elephant in the room as the 2013-14 season has progressed. The 6-8, 260-pound junior forward who flirted with the NBA after his sophomore campaign came back because he didn’t like the feedback he got from the league. Now that his numbers are up, he will go, right? Or, is there a chance the just-turned 20-year-old could try to increase his stock even more by playing his senior season?

Stokes isn’t showing his cards.

“I’m focused on getting to the NCAA tournament, focused on having a good showing in the SEC tournament,” he said Saturday. “Like I always said, I came here when the program was struggling, when things were looking bad. I definitely don’t want to leave with it looking bad. So, I’m really not thinking about that. I’m just thinking about making sure this year is a good year.”

On Monday SEC coaches named Stokes to the All-SEC first team. He received second-team honors last season. He now averages 14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds per game. He averaged 12.4, 9.6 last season. He’s passing the ball better than ever before. His 66 assists and counting dwarf the 42 he distributed as a sophomore.

And there’s more.

Stokes is one of only three major conference players — Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Washington State’s D.J. Shelton join him —  who averaged a double-double in conference play. He led the SEC in field-goal percentage (56.7), rebounding (again, 11.1) and offensive rebounding (4.4 orpg).

Considering those strides, it’s no surprise to hear his draft stock has improved., a widely used mock draft website, slotted Stokes as the 18th pick in the second round in its most recent projection. That could improve if Stokes has strong performances in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

The NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee told Stokes he was a second rounder at best when he requested feedback following the previous season.

“Guys were saying I can’t shoot,” Stokes told the News Sentinel in April 2013. “Well, I know I can shoot. Guys were saying he’s short. Well, I have a 7-2 wingspan. I just have to work on the other things. I was confident enough to go into (NBA team) workouts and show that, but at the end of the day, when you have to sign those papers and send it in, you don’t want to risk your whole career on a couple of workouts. That’s what my decision was based on.”

The decision to return was influenced by UT coach Cuonzo Martin, as well as a former Vol currently in the NBA.

“I met with Coach  and talked to some people I trust — somebody like Tobias Harris — and the advice he told me was that I’m a first-round talent so don’t settle for the second round.”

Will the same hold true again after this season?

On Saturday, Stokes was asked which way he was leaning.

“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” he said. “Hopefully we have a good showing Friday.”

Where where the Vols be seeded in the SEC tournament? Version 2.0


When we tried to get a grip on the Vols’ potential seeding in the SEC tournament four days ago, things were still very much up in the air. But with one game left — UT (19-11, 10-7 SEC) hosts Missouri (21-9, 9-8) in a bubble buster today at 4:10 p.m. — we can draw some more concrete conclusions.

Florida beat Kentucky 84-65 today. Doesn’t matter. The Gators have the No. 1 seed. The Cats have clinched No. 2. The Vols can get into the mix starting at No. 3. They could also fall as low as No. 7.

Here’s how.


If the Vols beat Missouri and Georgia loses at LSU, the Vols will claim No. 3. Both the Bulldogs and the Vols would be 11-7, and UT has the tiebreaker because it beat Georgia this season. This would happen whether Arkansas won or not.


If the Vols beat Missouri and Georgia wins at LSU, the Vols will be No. 4. Arkansas would be the only team that could tie UT at that 11-7 mark, and the Vols have the tie breaker over the Razorbacks since they beat them earlier this season.


If the Vols lose to Missouri, they are No. 5 at best. Arkansas would have to lose for this to hold.


If the Vols and LSU lose, and Arkansas wins, the Vols get No. 6. since Missouri would have the tiebreaker against the Vols.


If the Vols lose to Missouri, Arkansas wins and LSU wins, the Vols are No. 7 because UT would lose a three-way tiebreaker between Missouri and LSU.

The curious case of A.J. Davis


A conversation started on press row as Wednesday night’s game between Tennessee and Auburn went from a done deal to a blowout to the kind of shellacking that makes someone dig into the media guide and find out that, whoa, the Vols haven’t won a true road game by this many points since Ernie and Bernie first started making guys look silly in the 1974-75 season.

Anyway, Tennessee was rolling toward a 28-point win and UT coach Cuonzo Martin was pulling guys off his bench. Rawane Ndiaye. Quinton Chievous. Everyone wondered. Would A.J. Davis play?

You remember Davis. He is the former three-star recruit who wears No. 21, the 6-9 forward who has played double-digit minutes 11 times this season but hasn’t seen the court in four straight games. Make that five. He never left the bench at Auburn.

This week, Martin was asked about Davis’ decline in playing time during an appearance on the Knoxville News Sentinel Sports Page. He cited his usual reason, saying Davis (1.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg) is in the process of learning how to transition from the perimeter positions he played in high school to a more physically demanding role in the paint.

“He’s a guy, and I really feel this way, when it’s all said and done he could be one of the better players in this league,” Martin said. “He’s 6-9. When we recruited him, he was 6-7, maybe hovering around 6-8. But he’s a legitimate 6-9, a guy that can go inside-out. He’s actually gotten more physical, tougher around the rim. Not that he was ever a soft player, but he just hadn’t been on the blocks as much coming up. He was always a perimeter guy. You watched him in AAU, and he could handle the ball coming up. Even if he had guys on his team who were 5-6, he was a guy that handled the ball and made decisions, made plays.”

If Davis is in the coach’s doghouse, it didn’t seem like it.

“He works extremely hard,” Martin said. “He lifts weights on off days. I just think he has a tremendous future in front of him. It’s a case of … You see guys who haven’t played much as a freshman, and all of a sudden next year he is starting and leading the team in scoring. It wouldn’t surprise me at all with A.J.”

This will probably confuse folks more. If Martin is serious about Davis’ potential as a sophomore, shouldn’t he get some more run as a freshman? Remember that Davis has played in way too many games — 20 — to have a chance of earning a redshirt.

It hasn’t been that way lately. Not even in blowout wins against Vanderbilt and Auburn.

The curious case of A.J. Davis continues.

Doug Gottlieb talks Vols, Cuonzo Martin and Bruce Pearl


CBS college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb joined the Knoxville News Sentinel Sports Page on Tuesday to give his take on Tennessee men’s basketball. You can listen to the full interview here. Some highlights are transcribed below.

Gottlieb on his impression of the Vols thus far …

“I have no idea what to think of them. Because I can’t understand why they’ve performed below what I think their potential is for so much of the season. I struggle with it. I saw the Mississippi State game. I had a friend who was there covering the game. He was like, Man, that did not look like a tournament team. Then you see them Saturday. Granted, Vandy is playing with backups. But they beat the hell out of Vandy. So,DG blog I struggle with it just like anybody else.”

On Tennessee’s recruiting …

“Cuonzo doesn’t have that sweat equity with the South. If he was coaching in the Big 10, everybody respects Cuonzo Martin because of the program he played in, the type of player and person he was. Now you’re kind of having to tell your story over and over and over again, Meanwhile you’re following a guy who … And I love Bruce. He’s a friend. He’s kind of a carnival barker, you know? … But he (Pearl) kind of earned his ways in through wins and a style that was his own version of the 40 minutes of hell. I think that is hard, too. It’s not just as simple as, hey, if he (Martin) was winning more it would be better. But I do think a lot of it where they have recruited from, the style they are trying to recruit to, trying to find that kind of happy mix while meanwhile trying to get people to buy in. Because I do think that Cuonzo’s style works. I really believe that. I think that style of basketball wins. If you win, ultimately, people will come no matter how boring the style is. And I don’t think his is as boring as others. But the process of getting there is really difficult if people don’t buy in. And he’s going through that right now.”

On when Bruce Pearl will coach again…

“I don’t think it will be this year. I think it will be next year. Obviously, Boston College would be a good fit since he went there. There are some people that think, well, if Alabama ever opened … I think that’s probably what triggered some fear in Knoxville. OK, we can’t bring him back but Alabama can? I don’t think it will be at that level. I just don’t, coming off of a show cause. I think it will be a lower level. But I think it will be one more year. Because the show cause doesn’t come off until August. Because he wont’ be able to recruit all summer.”

Where might the Vols be seeded in the SEC tournament?


The last week of the SEC basketball season is upon us. What a long strange trip it’s been. And it ain’t over yet.

While Billy Donovan and his perfect Gators (16-0) are the cool guys walking away from the explosion that is the rest of the league, everyone else has work to do.

Right now Kentucky (11-5), despite its wobbly legs, is in second place. Georgia (10-6) sits alone in third. Tennessee and Arkansas (9-7) are tied for fourth. A four-team huddle of 8-8 teams — Missouri, LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss — are holding down fifth while Vanderbilt (7-9) sits just outside. Behind limps in Alabama (6-10), Auburn (5-11), South Carolina (4-12) and Mississippi State (4-13).

For a moment, let’s pretend things end in this order. The Vols would be in decent shape for the SEC tournament in Atlanta. They beat Arkansas, so they would win the tie-breaker and get the fourth seed, which comes with the sacred double bye. UT wouldn’t play until the quarterfinals on Friday, March 14.

But things could get even better.

Or much worse.

Here is a scenario where Tennessee could end up with the two(!) seed: Kentucky, which fell on its face against South Carolina its last time out, loses its final two, one of which is against Florida. Meanwhile Georgia splits. Arkansas and the Vols win out. All of a sudden there is a four-way tie for second place, one that would favor the Vols since they have the best winning percentage against the three teams they would be tied against. Hello, two seed.

And here is a scenario from the other end of the spectrum: Tennessee tanks, loses both and gets run down from behind by Arkansas and whichever teams emerge from the group of four currently tied for fifth. While the Vols will be safe from a first-round game on Wednesday no matter what, they could find themselves playing a higher-seeded team in their first tournament game, which would be played Thursday. That’s not good.

Chances are UT’s path lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. As it becomes finalized this week, here’s a reminder of how the Vols would fare in a tie-breaker with any of the teams they could potentially find themselves next to when all is said and done.

Kentucky (11-5): Advantage UK … Wildcats won their only game against the Vols.

Georgia (10-6): Advantage UT .. Vols won their only game against the Bulldogs.

Arkansas (9-7): Advantage UT … Vols won their only game against the Razorbacks.

Missouri (8-8): TBD … Vols lost their first game against the Tigers but play them at home on Saturday

LSU (8-8): Advantage UT … Vols won their only game against the Tigers.

Texas A&M (8-8): Advantage A&M … Aggies won two games against the Vols.

Ole Miss (8-8): Advantage UT … Vols won their only game against the Rebels.

Vanderbilt (7-9): Advantage TBD … This one gets tricky because the Commodores and Vols split games. The SEC’s next piece of criteria compares the win-loss record the two tied teams have against the No. 1 seed and so on, all the way to the 14th seed if necessary. Both lost to Florida. Both lost to Kentucky. And both beat Georgia. If UT is tied with Vanderbilt, maybe Arkansas is the fourth seed. The Vols would win this tiebreaker then since they beat the Razorbacks, a team Vanderbilt lost to.

Now my head hurts.

I’m walking away from this mess.

And no, I’m not looking back.

Vols forward Jarnell Stokes talks football … Would he play?

Jarnell Stokes dodged a question about the NBA draft after Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 76-38 on Saturday. But what the 6-8, 260-pound forward who is expected to forgo his senior season to pursue professional basketball had to say about another sport was more interesting.

“Growing up, football was my passion,” Stokes told reporters after the game. “That’s what I always wanted to do. I always make jokes that I’ll come play on the football team here at Tennessee … That’s what I always said when I first signed here. My senior year, if I’m still here, I’m playing football and basketball. I see guys like (Jadeveon) Clowney, guys are going crazy about his 40 time, his size. I look at that and I say, man, I’m his same size. I can run, too. I ran a — it’s not official — but I ran 4.46 with my trainer. But you know, it’s not official, so I didn’t really tell anyone that.”

The 6-8, 260-pound forward fielded the following football-related questions:

What position would he play?

“Defensive end or tight end. That’s the position I’ve been playing all my life.”

When did he run that 4.46 40-yard dash?

“It was in December. I feel like I’m faster and in better shape now. I may even be faster. No one taught me any technique or anything like that. I feel like when I get that down, I don’t know. I don’t know.”

So, this is something he has seriously considered?

“I always said, if I come my senior year, I’m going to try out football. Trying it out could mean, you know, play it for a week. If I don’t like it or don’t have the heart for it anymore, don’t play. It’s just something I’ve always had in the back of my mind.”

Have any of the Tennessee football coaches ever talked, even jokingly, about having him on the team?

“Yeah. Both. Dooley did back then. And Butch Jones. I’ve run into him twice in the training room. He always makes jokes about it. But that’s just something that’s in the back of my mind right now.”