Between the Bruce Pearl scandal and a 30-point loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the 2010-2011 season was rather embarrassing for the Tennessee Volunteers basketball program. Now it is up to new head coach Cuonzo Martin to get the team back on the right track.
With five of their top six scorers gone from last season, including the early departures of Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson to the NBA Draft, the Volunteers have plenty of turnover on their roster. They will rely on niche players from a year ago to play major roles this season.
The top returning player is Cammeron Tatum. He is athletically gifted but struggled shooting the rock last season. Tatum will have to develop into the team?s go-to scorer as he is the only player to average more than three points per game in 2010-11.
Wing Jordan McRae figures to join Tatum in the starting lineup. He only played in ten games last season but brings a lot of athleticism to the table. Three-point threat Skylar McBee will be one of the top options off the bench while freshmen Josh Richardson and Quentin Chievous try to work themselves into the rotation.
Trae Golden takes over the full-time point guard duties now that Melvin Goins has graduated. Golden is a physical point guard and a solid distributor. He will be backed up by freshman Wes Washpun who is extremely quick but not much of an outside shooter. Richardson may also see some time at the point.
The frontcourt spots are up for grabs. Kenny Hall, Jeronne Maymon, and Renaldo Woolridge all played sparingly a year ago and will have to step into bigger roles. All three guys are skilled but have not come close to tapping into their full potential. Former Pitt Panther Dwight Miller is a load inside and should also factor into the equation while freshman Yemi Makanjuola brings more muscle to the interior.
The Volunteers have a ton of questions entering the season. They are not a great outside shooting team and lack proven production on the inside. Playing in a fairly top-heavy SEC, Martin will have his hands full trying to make it a quick turnaround for Tennessee.
Player to Watch: Jeronne Maymon, F
The former Marquette Golden Eagle has had an extremely disappointing start to his college career. A top 100 recruit coming out of Madison Memorial high school in Wisconsin, Maymon was supposed to be an impact player for the Volunteers after becoming eligible in the second semester. However, he was unable to find a steady role off the bench. Maymon has a strong build but is more of a finesse player who prefers playing out on the perimeter. His work ethic and motivation has also been questioned. If he can finally put it all together, it will give Tennessee a much needed boost in their frontcourt.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/21 vs. Duke (Maui Invitational)
11/22 vs. Memphis/Michigan (Maui Invitational)
11/23 vs. Kansas/Georgetown/UCLA/Chaminade (Maui Invitational)