Good wins: vs. Kansas, vs. Kentucky, vs. Florida
Bad losses: at Georgia, at USC
Quality wins: No other team in the country can say it has beaten both Kansas and Kentucky. These two wins show that the Volunteers are capable of beating anyone. Their speed and athleticism is as good as any team.
Speed: The Volunteers thrive on ball pressure and forcing turnovers. Three players average at least one steal per game and the Tennessee as a team averages 8.2 per game, good for second in the SEC. The Vols also rely on their quickness to beat guys off the dribble and create scoring opportunities. They average 14.8 assists, which ranks third in the SEC.
Wayne Chism: Tennessee needs to rely on this guy more. He is the team’s best player and can dominate a game, but sometimes it seems like the Vols don’t go to him enough in the low post. The senior averages 12.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, shoots 46.9 percent form the field and 76.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Offense: Surprisingly, this team struggles from the offensive end this year. The Volunteers are miserable from the three-point line, only shooting 32.3 percent. They also shoot just 66.7 percent from the free-throw line. Tennessee’s leading scorer, Scotty Hopson, shoots just 59.1 percent from the free-throw line. A lot of the problems stem from the loss of Tyler Smith but also it’s the lack of a true point guard. Bobby Maze does most of the ball-handling but has struggled for most of the year. He is shooting just 42.1 percent from the field and 26.5 percent from three.
Bruce Pearl has done a great job of turning this program around. Now in his fifth season, he has taken the Vols to Sweet 16s. The question is: is this their ceiling? Their frenetic pace can be a tough style to win in the NCAA Tournament. Also, the Vols have a couple of head-scratching losses at Southern California and Georgia this year, which leads to questions about their consistency. As for seeding in the NCAA Tournament, they will most likely fall between a three and five seed.
NCAA Tournament prediction: Second round. Some people may think by beating Kansas and Kentucky, the Volunteers are an elite team. Though they are certainly capable of beating anyone, their inconsistent play and poor offensive production say otherwise. The Vols may have better chemistry since the loss of Smith, but they were definitely a better team with him. The lack of a true point guard combined with poor shooting will doom this team. With the right matchup, their max potential is the Sweet 16, but if the Vols open against a disciplined team with a good point guard, they could find themselves out after the first round.