Tennessee junior forward Jarnell Stokes made official the news many expected to hear Friday afternoon, announcing his decision to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. Stokes was a first team All-SEC selection this past season, as he posted averages of 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
“First of all, I think Jarnell is going to go down as one of the best big men to ever play at Tennessee – certainly one of the most dominant rebounders ever to wear the orange,” Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. “I hope our fans will celebrate his career, because the growth and development he’s shown over the past three years has really been impressive, and I’m proud of the player and man he’s become.”
Of the 87 games in which Stokes played at Tennessee he started 84, and as a junior he posted 22 double-doubles. Stokes failed to reach double figures in scoring just five times this past season, with the last such effort coming in a win over Arkansas on January 22. According to Draft Express, Stokes is projected to be a second round draft pick.
Tennessee loses both Stokes and Jeronne Maymon (graduation) from this year’s Sweet 16 team, with incoming freshmen Phil Cofer and C.J. Turman joining Rawane Ndiaye in Martin’s interior rotation.
No. 14 seed Mercer had cinderella written all over them.
They were a senior-laden team led by a fiery coach bursting with personality and a bench that featured at least one guy that can flat out dance.
They were fun, they were easy to root for, and they were a No. 14 seed.
But on Sunday, we found out why they were a No. 14 seed, as Jarnell Stokes almost outrebounded the entire Bears roster in an 83-63 win for No. 11 Tennessee. He finished with 18 boards to add to 17 points and five assists while Mercer grabbed 19 rebounds as a team. The Bears cut the lead to single digits on a couple of different occasions in the second half, but the outcome was never really in doubt.
The Vols are on their way to the Sweet 16 where they will take on No. 2 Michigan in Indianapolis on Friday night.
The best player on the floor for Tennessee was Josh Richardson, who continued his terrific play this tournament by dropping 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting. He’s now averaged 19.3 points in Tennessee’s three tournament games, and is 20-for-28 from the floor since missing his first five shots against Iowa.
Tennessee is going to have their work cut out for them. The Wolverines are streaking right now and they’ll put Tennessee’s massive front line in tough spots defensively. Stokes or Jeronne Maymon will likely end up being forced to guard Glenn Robinson III, who is going to get drafted at some point to be an NBA small forward. The Vols will have a clear advantage in the paint, however, which likely means that whoever is able to take advantage of that mismatch will likely end up advancing.
It’s funny when you think about it.
Tennessee fans wanted Cuonzo Martin fired. Now he’s off to the Sweet 16 after winning a trio of games in the first week of the Big Dance.
Jordan McRae led four scorers in double figures with 20 points and Jarnell Stokes added 18 points and 13 boards as No. 11 Tennessee overcame a horrendous start and a 12 point first half deficit to beat No. 11 Iowa in the final play-in game on Wednesday night, 78-65, in overtime.
The difference maker for the Vols was actually Josh Richardson, who finally sparked some life into Tennessee when he hit five straight shots in the second half. Richardson scored 13 of his 17 points in the final 15 minutes of regulation, a stretch when it looked like Iowa was getting ready to pull away. He also set up Antonio Barton for a three that gave the Vols the lead.
It was a huge win for head coach Cuonzo Martin, who has been under siege by Tennessee fans unhappy with the team’s performance. There was an online petition circulating to try and get Bruce Pearl hired again that accumulated 36,000 signatures. The angst of the good folks on Knoxville only grew worse when Pearl was hired by Auburn on Tuesday. Hopefully, this win can put some of that to rest.
Tennessee will advance to take on No. 6 UMass in the Round of 64, which is a game that the Vols can win. UMass has a ton of length and athleticism, but they don’t have the kind of bodies in the paint that Tennessee does. Contain star guard Chaz Williams, avoid turnovers and pound the ball into the paint and they’ll have a chance to play on Sunday.
Adam Woodbury led the way for Iowa with 16 points and eight boards as he hit Stokes with every post move that he had in his arsenal. Peter Jok added 10 points off the bench as well. Those two combined to shoot 12-for-16 from the floor. The rest of the Hawkeyes? They shot 28.6% from the field, which included a 3-for-15 night from Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa’s star guard. As a team, they missed their last eight shots and were outscored 14-1 in overtime, ending a season that saw Iowa go just 2-7 in games decided by five points or less and choke away a handful of big leads in marquee games.
Head coach Fran McCaffery got a solid dose of perspective on gameday, however. His son, Patrick, had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor in his neck. On the broadcast on TruTV, McCaffery said that the surgery was believed to be a success.