The 'inside' story

Tennessee's 2008-09 basketball players will be longer but their shots will be shorter.

The Vols often lived by the 3-pointer and died by the 3-pointer in Bruce Pearl's first three years as head coach. Appropriately enough, there are three reasons that will not be the case this winter:

1. The NCAA is moving the 3-point arc from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches. This will deter a lot of teams, not just Tennessee.

2. The Vols' two best 3-point shooters of 2007-08, Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, are out of eligibility.

3. Tennessee will be a much bigger team this season, so the offensive emphasis should be shifting from the perimeter to the inside game.

If the season opened today, the Vols probably would split the post duties between 6-9, 245-pound Wayne Chism and 6-10, 270-pound Brian Williams. The power forward would be 6-7, 215-pound Tyler Smith and the small forward would be 6-8, 210-pound J.P. Prince. There's not a long-range gunner in that group but all four are capable of scoring in the paint.

"We've got more experience on the inside," head coach Bruce Pearl said recently. "Wayne, Brian, Tyler and J.P. all should be able to score around the basket, so we should have a better post offensive game."

Even with the attack becoming more post-oriented, Pearl expects Tennessee to score points in triplicate this season. He just expects this will occur more in the traditional manner – field goal AND foul shot.

"I believe in the 3 – inside and out," the Vol coach said. "The inside 3 is a drive to the basket, score a tough 2 and 1 (foul shot) ... and I believe in the 3-point shot (from beyond the arc)."

Several current Vols are decent 3-point shooters but none is in the class with Lofton and Smith. Even so, Pearl says the 2008-09 offense won't be a total departure from the 2007-08 attack. The Vols will still rely heavily on transition offense, for instance.

"We'll continue to do many of the same things we've done," he said. "We'll have to see how effective we are (from outside). With a greater post game and a stronger emphasis on dribble-penetration, we should shoot more foul shots. With inside shots and inside rebounds, we should be a better offensive rebounding team."


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