Tennessee struggled last season and now comes into the 2016-2017 season after losing their top two players. On top of losing Armani Moore and Kevin Punter, the Volunteers have to face a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule with games against Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Gonzaga among other difficult tests.
Braving Tennessee’s non-conference schedule would be difficult for almost any team in the SEC this year, but the Volunteers are going to have to do it with eight newcomers, including six 3-star recruits. There’s some promising talent in the group, but Lew Evans is the only new comer with any experience on a college basketball court, so a lot of the pressure to lead will be on the returning players.
As for the returners, Robert Hubbs III and Admiral Schofield will have to improve on last season’s success if they hope to fully replace Armani Moore and Kevin Punter. Hubbs is a bigger guard that averaged double-digit points last season. While Schofield, at 6’4” is a smaller guard, he was still able to pull down 4 RPG which leads the returning players this season. Moore was an undersized forward last season and Schofield will look to be a similar player with similar success for Tennessee this season.
Outside of Lew Evans who comes to the Volunteers after graduating from Utah State, some of the freshman will have to step up for Tennessee to find success this season or in the coming years. Two freshman that I think could do just that are Kwe Parker and Jalen Johnson, both out of Wesleyan Christian Academy. Johnson was a top 150 recruit in his class and the 4th best recruit in North Carolina while Parker has potential with his athletic ability, despite his smaller size. The two should already have good chemistry after playing with each other in high school and hopefully that connection carries over to college and can benefit the Volunteers.
Someone will have to step up to replace Kevin Punter’s impressive 22 PPG last season and if no single player can achieve that feat, which is likely, the Volunteers will have to put up more points by committee. The Volunteers also can’t forget about Armani Moore’s ability to pass from the forward position, where he led the team in assists last season by quite a large margin. It won’t be ideal for another forward to take over distributing the basketball, but someone will have to step up as a facilitator if this offense is going to put up enough points to replace the lost scoring weapons.
Even if Rick Barnes had brought in a top recruiting class this season I would still have major doubts about their ability to compete against this non-conference schedule and the growing talent in the SEC. That being said, Tennessee doesn’t have a highly rated class coming in and things could go south this season. The Volunteers should hope to get one or two good wins in the non-conference slate that they aren’t expected to win and from there they can build with the younger talent.
Coaches like Rick Barnes tend to know who they’re recruiting and at least one of the newcomers is bound to show signs of more talent than previously thought. Any flashes of ability from this year’s newcomers will be great, but it will ultimately only bring hope for future seasons because this season is going to be too much for the Volunteers. Rick Barnes might be able to eventually get Tennessee back on track, but it won’t be this season, especially with such a tough non-conference schedule to start out with.
#0 Jordan Bone, 6’1” 3-star G from The Ensworth School
#1 Lamonte Turner, 6’0” 3-star G from IMG Academy
#2 Grant Williams, 6’5” 3-star F from Providence Day School
#10 John Fulkerson, 6’7” 3-star F from The Christ School
#12 Kwe Parker, 6’0” 3-star G from Wesleyan Christian Academy
#13 Jalen Johnson, 6’5” 3-star G from Wesleyan Christian Academy
#21 Lew Evans, 6’7” F transfer from Utah State
#23 Jordan Bowden, 6’3” 3-star G from Carter HS
#3 Robert Hubbs III, 6’5” G - Leading returning scorer with 10.6 PPG and 3.9 RPG last season
#5 Admiral Schofield, 6’4” F - Leading returning rebounder with 4 RPG and 7.6 PPG last season
#11 Kyle Alexander, 6’10” F - Pulled down 3.2 RPG last season and adds some size to the front line
#12 Kwe Parker, 6’0” G - Athletic undersized guard that could have a lot of potential
#13 Jalen Johnson, 6’5” G - Top 150 prospect and the 4th ranked player in North Carolina
#15 Detrick Mostella, 6’1” G - Second leading returning scorer with 8.4 PPG last season
#21 Lew Evans, 6’7” F - Averaged 8.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG in just 21 MPG last season at Utah State
2016-2017 Season Predictions
|vs Appalachian State||W|
|vs Georgia Tech||L|
|@ North Carolina||L|
|vs Tennessee Tech||W|
|@ Texas A&M||L|
|vs South Carolina||L|
|@ Ole Miss||L|
|vs Mississippi State||L|
|vs Kansas State||W|
|@ Mississippi State||L|
|vs Ole Miss||W|
|@ South Carolina||L|