2008 Tennessee Volunteers Basketball Preview
After winning the SEC East, the Volunteers of Tennessee (31-5 overall, 14-2 SEC) made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 where they lost to Louisville 79-60. That was the third straight March Madness appearance for the Vols and the second time in a row that they got as far as the regional semifinals. Coach Bruce Pearl enters his fourth season at the school, having lost a boatload of veteran players while having brought in another very strong recruiting class.
Junior Tyler Smith (28.3 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, 53.6 FG%, 70.6 FT%) will be the club’s frontcourt leader. Last season, he led Tennessee in assists, rebounds and field goal percentage. Smith’s ability to get the ball to the right guy is as important as his skilled and accurate shot. Senior power forward Ryan Childress (9.8 MPG, 2.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.7 APG, 36.1 FG%, 61.1 FT%), who had off-season surgery on his knee, looks to make a comeback. Frosh power forward Emmanuel Negedu will offer strength and muscle around the basket while forward Renaldo Woolridge, also a freshman, brings a fine perimeter game. Wayne Chism (22.9 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 47.0 FG%, 55.6 FT%), a junior forward, has fine defensive chops.
Last season, the Vols made 312 three-pointers, setting a school record. With the loss of its top three downtown shooters and the three-point mark being moved further away from the basket, don’t expect the club to repeat that performance. The Vols exchange three-pointers for athleticism and size with six-foot-seven junior J.P. Prince (18.8 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 49.7 FG%, 55.7 FT%), six-foot-six freshman Cameron Tatum and six-foot-seven freshman and McDonald’s All-American Scotty Hopson in the backcourt. All three can drive and score. Junior swing Josh Tabb (9.3 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 48.5 FG%, 0.0 FT%) is an excellent defensive player.
There’s plenty of new talent, loads of athleticism and lots
of big bodies on board for Tennessee in 2008-2009. The team looks
to win its second straight SEC East regular season title, utilizing
Pearl’s aggressive defense. Although Tennessee plays one of
the toughest schedules in the country, the difficult non-conference
tests they face should toughen them up for SEC games and the Big