SEC Preview: Tennessee

Bruce Pearl has generated a lot of excitement since arriving in Rocky Top and Vol fans are hoping that he can lead them to the promise land in the 2009-10 season.

Note: went to its experts at each of the 12 SEC schools to put together preseason scouting reports for all the league teams while also polling our writers to determine their picks to win the division and overall league titles. 


By Randy Moore
Rocky Top News


When a team signs junior-college point guards two years in a row ... well, that tells you all you need to know about the Tennessee Vols.

Since inheriting senior C.J. Watson (now with the NBA's Golden State Warriors) in his first year, Vol head coach Bruce Pearl has struggled to fill the lead-guard role. He thought he'd solved the problem last year when he brought in juco transfer Bobby Maze.

A converted shooting guard, Maze showed flashes but failed to lead the 2008-09 Vols in assists. So Pearl went back to the juco ranks last spring and signed Melvin Goins, a 5-11, 195-pounder from Mount San Jacinto (Calif.) Community College.

If Maze/Goins or Goins/Maze can provide good play at the point, the 2009-10 Vols could be the first team in program history to advance beyond the NCAA's Sweet 16. Nearly all of the other pieces are in place, since the top eight players return from a 2008-09 squad that went 21-13.

Tyler Smith projects to be one of America's premier players as a senior this winter. The 6-7, 220-pounder led the Vols in scoring (17.4 points per game) and assists (114) last season, finishing second in rebounding (5.8 per game). To achieve superstar status, however, he'll need to improve on last season's 29 percent mark from 3-point range.

Tennessee's second-best player is Wayne Chism, a 6-9, 245-pound junior who is maddeningly inconsistent. Chism averaged 13.7 points last season, with team highs in rebounds (8.0 per game) and blocks (34). He is surprisingly good from 3-point range and oozes NBA potential.

J.P. Prince, a 6-8, 200-pound junior, led the Vols in field-goal percentage (57.2) and steals (47) last season. He excels at breaking down a defense (97 assists) but sank just 3-of-24 shots from beyond the arc.

Scotty Hopson, a 6-7 sophomore, led UT regulars in 3-point shooting (35.7 percent) and averaged 9.2 points as a true freshman. After exploding in summer league action, he appears ready to live up to his high school hype.

Maze posted a 2-1 ratio of assists (109) to turnovers (54) last season, and should be a lot smoother in his second year playing the point.

Wing Cameron Tatum averaged just 7.6 points per game last fall but should top that if his knees hold up. Brian Williams, a 6-10, 270-pound post player, contributed 5.0 points and 5.6 rebounds last season despite averaging just 16 minutes per game. He has loads of untapped potential.

Josh Tabb, the team's best perimeter defender, shot 50.6 percent from the field and 42.4 from 3-point range last year. Also returning is rangy 6-9 sophomore Renaldo Woolridge, who needs to expand his repertoire after being mostly a 3-point bomber last season.

Sophomore Emmanuel Negedu, a 6-7, 230-pound power forward, will miss the 2009-10 season after having an implantable cardiac defibrillator surgically placed in his chest in early October.

The Vols' only freshman signee for 2009-10 is Kenny Hall, a 6-8, 220-pounder from Stone Mountain, Ga., who could help offset the loss of Negedu.

Tennessee is strong enough at four positions to win the SEC title and make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament. If Maze or Goins comes through at the point, this team could be dangerous.


SEC Predicted Order of Finish


SEC East

1. Kentucky

2. Tennessee

3. Florida

4. South Carolina

5. Vanderbilt

6. Georgia


SEC West

1. Mississippi State

2. Ole Miss

3. LSU

4. Alabama

5. Arkansas

6. Auburn


Overall League Champion: Kentucky


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