Gators Prepare for a Different Tennessee

Tennessee basketball changed this offseason. Former head coach Bruce Pearl was fired in light of NCAA investigations around the program, and first-year coach Cuonzo Martin has put his own touch on the way the Volunteers play. It's different offensive schemes and less full court press than under Pearl, forcing the Gators to scout an entirely different team than in recent years.

"Obviously, they went through a very difficult time," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "The one thing that stands out is that you're getting prepared for a totally different style than the way Bruce's teams played. Although personnel is similar, Cuonzo is putting in his own system and his own style on things in the program now."

The former offensive schemes of Bruce Pearl are gone. Donovan referred to the "four around one" offense that Tennessee used to run, but some of the cutting actions are coming from different places than before. It's nothing different than what Donovan has seen at other schools when a new coach comes in.

It was more difficult because of the personal relationship Donovan had with Pearl. Tennessee had plenty of success in head-to-head action against the Gators when Pearl was running the program, but the disappointment from Donovan was more because of their friendship off the court.

"For me, I can only go off my relationship with somebody and how my interaction is," Donovan said. "I don't know all the inter workings of Tennessee's program or what really went on there. I know Bruce and I always had a good relationship in the one-on-one piece of it. I feel bad for him and I feel bad for Tennessee. We're all responsible to do things the right way and in a way that is inside the framework of the rules. Sometimes people make mistakes and do things that are maybe not good.

"For me to sit and pass judgement on Tennessee and Bruce when I wasn't in any of those things with the NCAA-- I respect all coaches."

The personnel isn't as talented as past years, evident by Tennessee's 7-7 record with losses to Oakland, Austin Peay and College of Charleston, but the Volunteers still have talent to scare their opponents. Plus, the rivalry between the two teams always adds some extra juice to both sides.

The Volunteers start just one player under 6-5, and their size could create problems for Florida. Jeronne Maymon is 6-7 but plays bigger because he weights 265 pounds. The junior is second on the team with 11.1 points and leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore point guard Trae Golden leads the team with 14.8 points and 5.3 assists per game.

"Their personnel is very similar," Donovan said. "Their system and style is different from the way Bruce played. With every team, there will always be some level of carryover. We all have to play defense and rebound and things like that. I would say the offensive actions they're running is different than what Bruce is running. The pressing is different. They're not doing as much of that. What you're getting prepared for in an offensive system and style is just different."

The Gators head into Saturday's conference opener with a 12-3 record, but they sport an 0-3 mark in road games this season. The biggest issue has been giving the ball away, as Florida has averaged 18 turnovers a game in losses at Ohio State, Syracuse and Rutgers.

"The one thing that stands out is our turnovers," Donovan said. "We'll need to do a better job in Knoxville. Our ability to make good decisions of when to shoot and not to shoot-- all of that stuff with our team being on the same page has to improve, too."


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