It’s been five years since Texas fans tired of going to the dance every year and ran Rick Barnes out of town. Now he’s turning Tennessee (5-0) into one of the best programs in the south, while Shake Smart has played in exactly two NCAA Tournament games in his Longhorns’ tenure.
What you’ll hear from talking heads is how much the Volunteers lost from last year’s team. And they did lose a lot. Ken Pomeroy has a stat called “minutes continuity” which measures what percentage of a team’s minutes are played by the same player from last season to this season. Using that metric Tennessee is No. 246. That means a lot of new faces on the court. Of course FSU is 253rd, but the announcers haven’t really caught on.
Rick Barnes is doing things similar to Coach Hamilton. He’s getting the right guys into the system and developing them over time. Mix that with the occasional top-50 recruit and you’ve got a winning formula.
Players to watch
The Volunteers don’t take a ton of 3s (287th nationally) but senior Jordan Bowden is the guy you can’t give a clean look. He’s made 37% for his career and is at 50% this year. He’s 6-5 but hasn’t been the most aggressive players over the years. But last season he battled through a hidden knee injury, and now he’s healthy and finally the player they hoped for. He’s averaging 16.6 per game to go along with 5.2 rebounds.
Bowden and fellow senior 6-2 Lamonte Turner account for account for nearly 60% of the Volunteers 3s, but Turner is only making 25% (35% for his career). But he’s also the engine that makes the team go, and he should get consideration for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. The game within the game will be watching him and Trent Forrest go at it.
Yves Pons is the most athletic player on a very athletic team. He’s 6-6 and can guard all five positions. The Frenchman played for his U-20 National Team this summer and the experience paid off. He’s now averaging 13 points a game and making 66% of his 2s.
Most likely to go Shizz Alston
Five-star freshman Josiah-Jordan James hasn’t had a breakout game this year. But he’ll give FSU fans a preview of the ‘Noles squad next year when they have Scottie Barnes on the roster. James is 6-7, already looks like senior, and came to Knoxville to run the point. Hopefully he saves his breakout for later in the weekend.
Who will win
Ken Pomeroy FSU 53%
Vegas line FSU by 1.5
How to watch
CBS Sports Net 7 PM