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Right on cue Tennessee's annual point-guard controversy is heating up.

Should freshman Trae Golden start ahead of senior Melvin Goins? Should backup wings Josh Bone and Skylar McBee get a chance to run the team?

Only twice in Bruce Pearl's first six seasons at the helm have the Vols gotten consistent production from their playmaker - C.J. Watson's senior year and Bobby Maze's senior year.

Coming off a 17-loss season the year before, Watson guided the 2005-06 Vols to a 22-8 record, a share of the SEC East title and a first-round victory in the NCAA Tournament. Coming off a 13-loss season the year before, Maze guided the 2009-10 Vols to a 28-9 record and a trip to the Elite Eight.

Every other Pearl season has featured some degree of chaos at the point. Here's a brief refresher course:

- Ramar Smith suffered some major growing pains while running the team as a true freshman in 2006-07.

- Smith played so erratically as a sophomore in 2007-08 that he was replaced in February by Jordan Howell, who was replaced in March by J.P. Prince. Still, Tennessee went 31-5.

- Maze struggled mightily with the conversion from junior-college shooting guard to major-college point guard in 2008-09 before getting his act together a year later.

- Through the first 10 games of the 2010-11 SEC season Goins has produced almost as many turnovers (20) as assists (24). In addition, he's shooting 31.6 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3 in league play.

Benching Goins would be a lot more attractive option if Golden appeared ready to take over the point position. He doesn't. The freshman's 10-game SEC stats show 16 assists, 10 turnovers, a 28.6 field-goal percentage and a 16.7 mark from 3-point range.

That brings us to Bone, who certainly qualifies as an intriguing option. The 6-3, 197-pound senior is not the shot creator you'd prefer at the point but he is an exceptional perimeter defender and a remarkably mistake-free ball-handler. The Southern Illinois transfer has committed just 8 turnovers in 387 minutes of action as a Vol. That equates to one turnover approximately every 49 minutes.

Although Bone has played almost exclusively shooting guard this season, he saw enough action at point guard in 2009-10 to suggest he is capable of running an attack. He brings more of a scoring threat to the position, as well. Clearly rusty after missing the first 11 games of 2010-11 due to a fractured wrist, Bone made just 5 of his first 15 shot attempts. Since then, however, he has connected on 14 of 29 field-goal tries (48.3 percent). Moreover, he is tied for the team lead with a 40.0 percentage from 3-point range and is a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line this season.

McBee is the fourth point-guard option, having seen spot duty at the position in several games. When Goins missed Game 3 vs. Missouri State due to injury McBee played 12 minutes at the point without recording an assist. He is a streak shooter and a high-energy performer but does not seem especially adept at breaking down a defense.

Tennessee has a true point guard signed for 2011-12 in Memphis native Chris Jones. Perhaps he will take charge of the position next winter and give the Vols some long-missing stability at the point.

For now, though, Tennessee's point-guard situation can be described the same way it usually is this time of year:

Unsettled.


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