SEC Hoops Preview: Tennessee

While it looks like the SEC is having one of the weakest years in a long time, the Tennessee Volunteers have proven themselves to be a national title contender. The painfully-likable Bruce Pearl begins his third season with the team and for the first time, it seems like he finally has the kind of skill and depth necessary to run his up-tempo style.

They're led by SEC player of the year and All-American candidate Chris Lofton. But it doesn't stop there with several outstanding shooters and athletic big men that can run the court.

The Volunteers fell to the Texas Longhorns in Austin but have otherwise put together a solid non-conference resume including tough road victories over West Virginia, Xavier and Gonzaga.

Staff:

Head Coach:
Bruce Pearl, 58-20 in 3 years
Associate Head Coach: Tony Jones

Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in bold):

PG Jordan Howell Sr. 6-3/190
Ramar Smith So. 6-2/200

SG Chris Lofton Sr. 6-2/200
J.P. Prince Jr. 6-7/205

SF JaJuan Smith Sr. 6-2/195
Josh Tabb So. 6-4/196

PF Wayne Chism So. 6-9/242
Ryan Childress Fr. 6-9/235

PF Tyler Smith So. 6-7/215
Duke Crews So. 6-7/233

Breakdown:

Key Returners:
SG Chris Lofton, SF JaJuan Smith
Key Losses: F Dane Bradshaw
Key Newcomers: PF Tyler Smith, G J.P. Prince

Rather than star freshmen, the Volunteers have been bolstered by the arrival of a pair of outstanding transfers in sophomore forward Tyler Smith and junior shooting guard J.P. Prince. The two have combined for 26.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists a game. The Vols are deep, too. Eleven of their 12 scholarship players have scored in double digits and they all average more than 10 minutes per game on the court.
Lofton unsurprisingly leads the team with 14.5 points per game and he's followed close behind by small forward JaJuan Smith and his 14.4 points per game. Senior Jordan Howell and sophomore Ramar Smith split duties at the point.

Joining Tyler Smith inside are an impressive group including sophomores Wayne Chism and Duke Crews. They lack some size with only two players on the team taller than 6-7, but they make up for it with tremendous athleticism.

The Gators travel to Knoxville on Tuesday, February 5 and then close out their home schedule against the Vols on Wednesday, March 5 at the O'Dome.


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