To hear Rick Barnes tell it, Tennessee is heading into a scrimmage against Davidson Saturday to showcase all the reasons why the 2015-16 version of the Vols aren't quite there yet. For years now, Barnes has set aside exhibition games for a pre-season scrimmage against the SoCon power. Barnes and 26-year Davidson head coach Bob McKillop have known each other since 1978, when the two coached on the same staff at Davidson. On Saturday, they'll meet again in a closed-door scrimmage, giving the Vols a nice litmus test as they prepare for the first year of the Rick Barnes era.
"We'll get a really good gauge," Barnes said. "I'll tell you this, out of all the things we do, we've felt for years on years scrimmaging Davidson is the best thing we do, because they do so many great things that explose you in so many different areas of the game. We'll learn so much from that scrimmage."
The four-hour scrimmage will be broken down between two morning and two afternoon sessions and will detail a game plus a wide array of special situations. Barnes believes the situational scrimmaging will "expose' his team's defensive weakness against a fast-paced Davidson squad with a knack for finding an open look behind the arc.
"We have a real bad tendency right now to stand and watch," Barnes said. "I told the guys, if they want to do that, they should have the best seat, which is on the bench where they want to watch. We've got to get guys that want to play. It's going from the next play, to the next play and the next play ... Basketball is like a running streaming of water. It just keeps flowing all the time. We've got to learn to flow on both sides of the court."
While Barnes works on fixing his team's upcoming mistakes, the players are excited to hit the floor against someone that isn't their teammates. Senior guard Devon Baulkman separated himself in the offseason as a consistent weapon in the rotation, and he's ready to see where his team stacks up against a formidable opponent.
"Going into the scrimmage will let us know where we're at and where we stand and what we need to do better,"Baulkman said. "We can work on our weakness and our strengths of what we do, and what coach Barnes has been teaching us."
As for the defensive struggles, Barnes wants to see his team play better help defense through a combination of both man and zone depending on the opponent.
"We want to be aggressive," the first-year Vols head coach said. "We believe in ball pressure. We believe in protecting the painted area. We believe in trying to finish the possession with rebounding. That's what we try and emphasize."
Barnes' said his teams have scrimmaged Davidson before the season starts for the past "8-10 years", and once again he'll use his old friend's team to gauge just how much more his roster needs to grow. But even if the team struggles and it proves how much development they really need, the new Tennessee head coach is just excited to be back on the sideline preparing to start another season.
"This weekend's going to be great for us," Barnes said. "Either way it's going to be great, because we're going to learn so much about us."