Jarnell Stokes, Madison Jones

New Year’s Resolutions: Tennessee Volunteers

Leave a comment

Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.

Who else made Resolutions? Click here to find out.

WHAT DOES TENNESSEE PROMISE TO DO MORE OF?: Get more scoring production from their backcourt.

  • Why it will happen: Jordan McRae is off to a fine start for Tennessee, but the Volunteers have to get more scoring punch from the rest of their backcourt. Josh Richardson is hovering around his offensive averages from last season — so not much additional production can be expected from him — but Tennessee can count on some improvement from prized in-state freshman guard Robert Hubbs III and his fellow freshman Darius Thompson. Hubbs (31 percent) and Thompson (37 percent) are both shooting the ball poorly to start the season but their learning curve has gone up and Tennessee has to hope that they’ll only improve shooting the ball from here. Memphis transfer Antonio Barton is shooting some solid percentages and there should also be an increased comfort level with him in the lineup as well as the season progresses.
  • Why it won’t happen: Asking a pair of freshmen to improve during the conference portion of the schedule is never a fun thing to do and Tennessee has such a good frontcourt that it might not even matter some nights. What if the learning curve is just too steep for Hubbs and Thompson to be effective scorers this year? Thompson is more of a natural distributor anyways, but Hubbs needs to attack the basket and get to the free throw line if his shooting percentages don’t go up. And where has Antonio Barton been during big games? The senior was a combined 0-for-9 shooting and didn’t register a point when Tennessee lost consecutive games to Wichita State and North Carolina State earlier this month.

WHAT DOES TENNESSEE SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF?: Rely on their big three to carry them every game.

  • Why it will happen: While Tennessee should work through their frontcourt of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, as well as guard Jordan McRae, they’ll need more from the rest of their team to hang with the big boys. Tennessee is too talented to not have a couple of guys step up with so much focus being drawn to those three players and the Volunteers are hoping their latest win against Morehead State will be more of the norm in terms of their balance. Sophomore Derek Reese saw his first action of the season and registered a double-double while Josh Richardson stepped up his scoring punch to lead the team with 19 points. The Volunteers don’t need guys like Reese and Richardson to carry the offense, but those role players have to score when they’re open.
  • Why it won’t happen: While the Morehead State game was a nice boost in morale thanks to the aforementioned balanced effort, the Eagles are hardly the kind of talented team Tennessee will play night-in and night-out in the SEC. And the Tennessee role players have been miserable lately against good competition. Maymon, McRae and Stokes combined for 43 of Tennessee’s 61 points in a loss to Wichita State and followed that up the next game with 48 of the team’s 58 points in another loss to North Carolina State. No player for Tennessee — besides those three players — scored more than six points in either of those two losses. Tennessee’s role players have looked overwhelmed against good competition lately and its a troubling sign they’ll need to fix in order to compete in the SEC.

POSTERIZED: Jaylen Brown throws down hard in transition

Albert Almanza, Jaylen Brown, Jalin Barnes
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

Jaylen Brown is a top five player in the Class of 2015 and a kid projected as a top ten pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.


Because he does things like this:

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Denzel Valentine, the nation’s best player?

Denzel Valentine
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
Leave a comment

(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.

No. 17 Notre Dame 68, Iowa 62: The Fighting Irish blew a 15-point second half lead, but the comeback gassed the Hawkeyes, as Notre Dame was able to pull away down the stretch. V.J. Beachem led the way with 16 points.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.

Cat Barber, N.C. State: Barber notched a career-high 37 points to go along with eight assists as the Wolfpack fought off a scrappy Winthrop team, 87-79. He wasn’t the best scorer on the floor, though …

Jimmy Gavin, Winthrop: Gavin finished with 38 points. Off the bench. The most incredible part? He was 5-foot-4, 90 pounds as a sophomore due to Crohn’s Disease.

John Egbunu, Florida: Egbunu finished with 17 points, 11 boards and four blocks as the Gators knocked off FGCU, 70-50. Dorian Finney-Smith added 23 points for Florida.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.
  • Troy Caupain had 17 points and Octavious Ellis added 12 points and nine boards (seven offensive) as No. 24 Cincinnati outlasted Nebraska, 65-61, at the Barclays Center.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.
  • Taurean Waller-Prince had 25 points to lead Baylor to a win over Arkansas State.
  • Joey King’s 18 points paced five players in double-figures for Minnesota as they knocked off Omaha, 93-90.
  • Caris LeVert had 19 points and Derrick Walton added 13 points and seven assists as the Wolverines beat Texas in the fifth-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.