2009-2010 Tennessee Volunteers Basketball Preview
For each of the past four seasons, the Tennessee Volunteers (21- 13 overall, 10- 6 SEC) have won 10 of more league games. Last year, after capturing second in the conference, the team went to the NCAA tourney for the fourth year running. The two seasons before last, they had been to the Sweet 16. Last year, they were eliminated in round one 77- 75 by Oklahoma State.
The Vols have notched 46 regular-season SEC wins in four seasons. That’s the most of any team in the league. One reason is their scoring. Tennessee was first in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 78.4 PPG. They were helped by the fact that they finished third in field goal percentage (46%) and fourth in rebound margin (plus-4.4). The team’s free throw percentage was low, ranking eighth (68%). Worse was their scoring defense, which was rated 11th at 72.5 PPG. Still worse was their shooting from downtown. They were last in threes, hitting just 32%.
Good news for the Vols. All-SEC forward Tyler Smith (17.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.4 APG) elected to stay for his senior year. He’s a tough competitive player who can make things happen. Wayne Chism (13.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.2 APG), another senior, is versatile enough to play the power spot and the post. Junior Brian Williams (5.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.7 APG) rounds out the front at center. There are some solid freshmen on board and good, experienced subs coming off the bench.
At the point, senior Bobby Maze (8.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.2 APG) has shown fine progress on defense and plays the transition well. There are some decent shooters in the backcourt. Scotty Hopson (9.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.4 APG), now in his second year, has garnered some seasoning and looked good in the spring session. Look for him to be a more physical player this year. Both Cameron Tatum (7.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.9 APG) and Renaldo Woolridge (2.6 PPG, 1.3 RPG, o.3 APG) offer decent shooting from the perimeter.
The good news for head coach Bruce Pearl is that he’s suffered no key losses from last season. A cadre of solid starters and substitutes returns to the Vols. Since Pearl came on board four years ago, Tennessee has been a contender. This season, Pearl coaches his best and most talented team yet. They will battle with Kentucky for the top spot in the SEC East and should go deep into the tournament. The Elite Eight is within their grasp and the Final Four is not out of order.