Saturday, October 18, 2008

No. 11 Tennessee: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 31-5, 14-2 SEC (1st)

Key Losses: Chris Lofton (15.5 ppg, 3 3's, 38%), JaJuan Smith (14.4 ppg, 1.6 spg), Ramar Smith (7.4 ppg, 3.0 apg)

Key Returnees: Tyler Smith (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.1 apg), Wayne Chism (9.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Newcomers: Bobby Maze, Renaldo Woolridge, Scottie Hopson, Daniel West, Emmanuel Negedu, Cameron Tatum, Philip Jurick

Tennessee lost a lot of talent to graduation (Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith) and suspension (Ramar Smith, Duke Crews), but they will still be loaded next season. They return arguably the best all-around player in the SEC in Tyler Smith. Smith has successfully made the transition from power forward to small forward after transferring from Iowa. He is one of the best passing wing players in the country, but he can also score in a variety of ways - he is a good enough shooter that you have to respect his jumper, and he is able to get by defenders when they get too close. He isn't a great ball handler, and usually attacks the basket with a couple dribbles going right or left, but he is slippery in the lane (meaning he has great body control once he gets in the paint). He is also a tenacious defender and will be the leader of this Tennessee squad. Joining Smith in the front court is Wayne Chism. Chism is known for being a face up power forward because he is a good shooter and is pretty good at putting the ball on the floor and getting by his man. But his back to the basket game is developing and he is a good finisher around the rim. If he continues to develop, he could be one of the better bigs in the SEC.

The Volunteers also have a slew of other talented big men. JP Prince, who was forced into the point guard role at the end of the season because of the struggles of Ramar and JaJuan Smith, is a crafty player who is a very similar player to his cousin (Tayshaun). He is long and athletic and makes a lot of plays defensively, and he should be very effective in Bruce Pearl's tough man-to-man defense. A couple freshman should see a lot of minutes as well. Emmanuel Negedu, a top 40 player who originally committed to Arizona, is a very muscular and athletic kid (6'7", 230 lb). The rest of his game is developing, and he could develop into a Tyler Smith-type player if he continues to work. Renaldo Woolridge is an athletic 6'8" small forward with a nice stroke and should see a lot of time. Also expect freshman Philip Jurick, sophomore Brian Williams, and senior Ryan Childress to compete for playing time.

The Tennessee backcourt will have a completely new look to it this year. Bobby Maze is talented but has had a series of issues involving eligibility. He is very quick and a good defender with a score first mentality, and should step in as the starter. Joining him will be highly touted recruit Scottie Hopson. Hopson is a 6'7" athlete with a developing game. His ball skills (jump shot, handle) are still a little raw, but he knows how to score and should thrive in the Tennessee system. Daniel West (Ed. Note: West did not practice with the team at the start of practice because of eligibility issues) is another incoming point guard, but he is a much different player than Maze - he is a distributor and an excellent defender (6 spg in high school). Redshirt freshman Cameron Tatum, a 6'6" wing, should also see some time.

Outlook: Tennessee has a ton of big, athletic wings, which is perfect for the pressure defense and fast break style that they like to play. There is a ton of talent on their roster, but not a lot of experience. They are probably still the favorite to win the SEC, especially with Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky losing so much.


The World Champion said...

Tyler Smith has only played the four position(PF) for Pearl. Jajuan Smith did not struggle at the PG position, that was Jordan Howell.

Rob Dauster said...

He might be listed as a PF, but he plays like a SF.