Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall cycled his way through seven starting lineups in his first 10 games. Then, through the last four, it seemed he had settled on Josh Richardson (1), Kevin Punter (2), Devon Baulkman (3), Armani Moore (4) and Willie Carmichael (5). But UT’s worst offensive showing of the season, its 56-38 loss to Alabama on Saturday, might make Tyndall start tinkering again. A different starting lineup could be on display when UT (9-5, 1-1 SEC) hosts No. 19 Arkansas (13-2, 2-0) tonight (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.) tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“We have alternated lineups all year and switched some things up,” Tyndall said Monday. “Outside of Josh and Armani, we really don’t have anyone that has just separated themselves from the pack. So, we are going to continue to test different lineups to see what works and doesn’t work.”
Tyndall specifically mentioned promoting sophomore guard Robert Hubbs and junior forward Derek Reese to starters. That means sophomore guard Kevin Punter and freshman forward Willie Carmichael would be out.
Punter, UT’s second-leading scorer at 10.2 ppg, shot 0-for-7 from the field and made two free throws against Alabama. The season-low came after he scored a game-high 15 points at Mississippi State.
Carmichael, who has started every game since the season-opener, is a combined 0-for-4 from the field in the last two games. He grabbed four rebounds against Mississippi State and two against Alabama. Both games brought foul trouble. He fouled out against the Bulldogs after 22 minutes. Four fouls limited him to 13 minutes against Alabama.
“Willie is a young guy who has to get better,” Tyndall said of the 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward.
The coach continued.
“Willie is starting on an SEC team as a freshman. There are not a lot of dudes out there getting to do that. With that comes expectations. He is a guy that, even though he probably isn’t quite ready to be playing the minutes he’s playing, that’s where we’re at. He stays in foul trouble for lack of discipline. He’s out of position. He leaves his feet. He doesn’t get the post fronted. Now, all of a sudden, instead of getting to play 22-24 minutes, he plays 12 or 14. And he’s constantly frustrated. Well, we are every bit as frustrated as he is, because we keep pointing out the same mistakes. But, that’s freshmen.”
“We didn’t play real well the other night. But I think, overall, we have a group of guys that believe in themselves and think they’re good players. I believe they’re good players. One game doesn’t make or break as season. I do believe this: If we are not on edge and we don’t have a sense of urgency, and we don’t play with detail against Arkansas, it can get ugly real quick.” — Tyndall
“I think he’s arguably one of the top six or eight players in our league.” — Tyndall on Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (15.8 ppg, 5.3 ppg)
“If we didn’t have Josh Richardson, we would score about 15 points per game.” — Tyndall
Numbers to Know:
2: Number of times Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall has taken down a ranked opponent. The first? Morehead State’s upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament in 2011. The second? UT’s win over Butler earlier this season.
+4.9: Arkansas’ league-leading turnover margin.
25.3: Percentage of UT’s total points Josh Richardson has scored this season (226 out of 895). That’s second-highest among SEC players. Richardson is 35 points shy of becoming the 47th member of UT’s 1,000-pound club.
13: Number of UT players that have fouled out in 13 games this season.
4: The Razorbacks have won 4 of their last 6 regular-season SEC road games dating back to last season