Southeastern Conference (29-4, 14-2)
Big Wins: 12/22 at Xavier (82-75), 1/17 Vanderbilt (80-60), 2/23 at Memphis (66-62)
Bad Losses: 11/24 vs Texas (78-97), 1/22 at Kentucky (66-72), 2/26 at Vanderbilt (69-72)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, Sweet Sixteen loss to Ohio State
Coach: Bruce Pearl (5-4 in 4 NCAA appearances)
Ramar Smith, Sophomore, Guard, 7.5 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 rpg
Chris Lofton, Senior, Guard, 16.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg
JaJuan Smith, Senior, Guard, 14.5 ppg, 2.3 apg, 3.7 rpg
Tyler Smith, Sophomore, Forward, 13.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.5 apg
Wayne Chism, Sophomore, Forward, 9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg
J.P. Prince, Sophomore, Guard, 8.2 ppg, 1.7 apg
Jordan Howell, Senior, Guard, 4.5 ppg, 2.2 apg
Josh Tabb, Sophomore, Guard, 1.4 ppg, 1.2 apg
Duke Crews, Sophomore, Forward, 5.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Ryan Childress, Junior, Forward, 2.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Brian Williams, Freshman, Center, 2.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
No team in America sports a more talented group of Smith’s than Tennessee. JaJuan Smith is overshadowed by superstar Chris Lofton, but he still keeps up with Lofton shot for shot and averages 14.5 points per game. Tyler Smith, a transfer from Iowa, is a great scorer, but it is his rebounding ability that is the most important aspect of his game for the Volunteers. Without Tyler last year, Coach Bruce Pearl’s squad had a huge problem in the rebounding department. This year it is not an advantage, but it is not a problem either.
Part-time starter Ramar Smith is not a great shooter, but the point guard can do his fair share of scoring by getting to the basket. The assist-to-turnover ratio is nothing spectacular, but for a team that loves to push the tempo, it is not bad either. Jordan Howell will almost see as many minutes as Ramar running the show. Howell will not score as much as Ramar, but he does take care of the ball a little better.
Why They Can Disappoint:
When you have two great shooters like Lofton and JaJuan Smith, one would think the free-throw shooting numbers would at least be decent. But they are horrendous. As a team, Tennessee shoots under 66 percent from the charity stripe, but it is not the fault of Lofton, JaJuan Smith or Tyler Smith. Those three shoot over 76 percent collectively…the rest of the team is just that bad. The other concern is foul trouble, especially for forward Wayne Chism. Chism does most of the dirty work under the basket, so he will understandably pick up some fouls, but he has a habit of picking up some quick ones. Since Tennessee is running and gunning a lot, they have a lot of players who see quality minutes and that will help replace Chism when he gets in foul trouble.
Who To Watch:
This team is all about Chris Lofton. He has been surprisingly inconsistent much of this season and his shooting numbers are a little down compared to last year, but he can still score a lot of points very quickly. As the season has progressed, Lofton has started to take better shots and that has made his numbers better. Lofton is definitely known for his record-breaking three-point shooting, but he can be more than that. Yet, with more talent around him this year, he lets others get to the basket more often than not and he will keep the defense away by hanging out behind the arc.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 82.5 (6th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.8 (168, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.6 (98, 9)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.7 (120, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.0 (22, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.1 (121, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.3 (283, 10)
Rebound Margin: 1.5 (128, 8)
Assists Per Game: 18.1 (6, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (48, 3)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Sweet Sixteen loss to Louisville
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