Mike Strange: Vols are not blown away by changes in SEC hoops

Early — way early — it may be, but the winds of change are blowing through SEC basketball.

Three coaches have blown away since the season ended and, per usual, John Calipari will be rumored for at least 20 NBA jobs. And, oh, by the way, two new teams, Missouri and Texas A&M, are blowing in.

Among the coaching ranks there will now be two Martins, Cuonzo and South Carolina's Frank, and two Kennedys, Andy and Texas A&M's Billy.

Seven of the top 11 SEC scorers will be gone when the 2012-13 season tips off.

Four teams — Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri — are being gutted by graduation, the NBA or transfers.

At Tennessee, however, there's barely a breeze. Barring surprises, no SEC team will return more intact than the Vols.

That's generally a good thing.

Tennessee dramatically exceeded expectations by finishing 10-6 in league play and claiming the No. 2 seed for the SEC tournament.

Aside from starter Cam Tatum and occasional contributor Renaldo Woolridge, everyone that matters is back.

That includes senior-to-be Kenny Hall, who was suspended the final nine games. Hall is back in good graces and anxious to capitalize on his second chance.

"I was just not taking care of business that I was supposed to take care of off the court, and Coach took it into his own hands,'' Hall said this week.

"It was something I needed, not just for the team but for myself to grow as a person, as a man.

"He could have easily let me go. He kept me and definitely got me thinking about how to handle situations off the floor.''

The Vols have popped up near the bottom of several early preseason top 25 polls, an indication that expectations should be pointing for a return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year detour to the NIT.

The potential for barely-a-freshman Jarnell Stokes to make significant progress also is in Tennessee's favor.

UT's 18-year-old January arrival is up to his headband in offseason workouts rather than picking out a tux for the high school prom.

"It's a blessing for me to be in college right now,'' Stokes said. "I'd be getting ready to go the prom and graduation and looking forward to being here next year instead of actually living it.''

Stokes will head to Colorado in June for tryouts to make the USA Under-18 team that will travel to Brazil.

This past week saw the spring signing period open. With a few exceptions, the 2012 signing class has taken shape.

Kentucky has reloaded with a vengeance, signing three of the nation's top 15 prospects, including Nerlens Noel as Anthony Davis' shot-swatting heir apparent.

Otherwise, the SEC didn't knock anyone's socks off in recruiting. Florida has one top-40 signee and is favored to land a top-10 recruit, Anthony Bennett. The Gators especially need Bennett in the wake of freshman Bradley Beal's departure to the NBA.

It's fair to ask how much Tennessee has helped itself with the 2012 class. The Vols add three perimeter players, 6-foot-7 Derek Reese, 6-5 Armani Moore and 6-6 juco transfer D'Montre Edwards.

All are unheralded, at least by the recruiting publications. Big deal, said assistant coach Jon Harris.

"They're three-star guys, whatever that means,'' Harris said, "but we don't pay attention to that.

"Especially Coach Martin, but even us as assistants, we trust what our eyes see.''

The SEC will see a very familiar Tennessee team next year. The Vols hope that's a real good thing.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 24

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

Looking forward to the 2012-13 basketball season already. Tenn has most of the ingredients to have a very successful season. Some more consistent outside shooting could make this team very dangerous. Like the Big Orange's chances this year.

wigmeister writes:

They trust what there eyes see. I trust what their eyes see also!

clvolfan writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Strictly classified ,can only be revealed if it is military info.

rbwusa writes:

Inch by Inch, Step by Step we just have to be patient..

eb502us#225637 writes:

Correction:

"Aside from starter Cam Tatum and occasional contributor Renaldo Woolridge, everyone that matters is back"

Should read:

"Aside from occasional contributors Cam Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge, everyone that matters is back"

1vavolfan writes:

Nice article but not even a mention on Cory Stanton. He should be the backup for Golden that we have needed, possibly even the starter with Golden moving to the 2. Should be interesting to see what Jarnell looks like in November with an entire off season under his belt.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Nice article but not even a mention on Cory Stanton. He should be the backup for Golden that we have needed, possibly even the starter with Golden moving to the 2. Should be interesting to see what Jarnell looks like in November with an entire off season under his belt.

My fearless early prediction is that Golden will be the starting PG and Stanton will have a chance to compete for the primary backup spot. Golden is just not, IMHO, the liability some on here seem to think he is. He probably had to play too many minutes last year, which probably contributed to some of his defensive breakdowns late in games. His judgment on offense improved as the season went on, and he is still one of the few on the team who can get a good shot for himself. His free-throw prowess is one of the most important reasons why he has to be on the floor in key situations. If Stanton or anybody else is good enough to give him meaningful rest and if the staff does a better job of managing his minutes, Golden will be a solid asset to a very strong Vol team next year.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

My fearless early prediction is that Golden will be the starting PG and Stanton will have a chance to compete for the primary backup spot. Golden is just not, IMHO, the liability some on here seem to think he is. He probably had to play too many minutes last year, which probably contributed to some of his defensive breakdowns late in games. His judgment on offense improved as the season went on, and he is still one of the few on the team who can get a good shot for himself. His free-throw prowess is one of the most important reasons why he has to be on the floor in key situations. If Stanton or anybody else is good enough to give him meaningful rest and if the staff does a better job of managing his minutes, Golden will be a solid asset to a very strong Vol team next year.

I can agree Golden did play too many minutes and does a good job creating his own shot and would probably be the best outside shooter if he was the shooting guard..Golden does not have the skills needed to defend a strong opposing point guard and you either have them or you don't ..Richardson has the defensive skills and not the offensive skills..Golden's free throw shooting is certainly one of the most important reasons TN won several games and his lack of defense was the reason several were lost..how TN handles the point guard position may determine their success or lack of it..TN will have the inside game to win..if you look at he MTSU game you will see that MTSU had a much better point guard than TN..and their coach used that advantage at the right time..I think TN has a chance to be as good as any team in the SEC next year..and I don't think KY has another Anthony Davis coming in like some say...I know Martin will use Golden to get the most of his abilities and I hope Stanton gives him more options..

AppreciativeAlum writes:

Do people get stars for D?

VictorKruger writes:

This is the first I've heard of the under-18 team going to Brazil. I can't imagine Stokes not making the team, but I'm terribly biased :>). What a great summer he's going to have if he gets to Italy AND Brazil! So glad he's a Vol and I hope he's around for years to come.

1Volunteer writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Correction:

"Aside from starter Cam Tatum and occasional contributor Renaldo Woolridge, everyone that matters is back"

Should read:

"Aside from occasional contributors Cam Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge, everyone that matters is back"

Cam was the top defender on the squad. He contributed a great deal every time he stepped on the floor. Strong defense is the most important weapon in the arsenal in Coach Martin's book. I agree with him.

snuffy63#653562 writes:

Yeah they trust their eyes on evaluations. That's why Kentucky beat them at Kentucky, by 25 points,and it's going to continue, as long as we recruit three stars. People say we have to trust them because they're the coach. Well Calapari's a coach too, and he gets it. I'm tired of taking all the dregs while Kentucky racks up #1 classes, back to back, to back. We have facilities that match up with anybody, so there's no real excuse for not being competitive with Kentucky, or any other school.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

I can agree Golden did play too many minutes and does a good job creating his own shot and would probably be the best outside shooter if he was the shooting guard..Golden does not have the skills needed to defend a strong opposing point guard and you either have them or you don't ..Richardson has the defensive skills and not the offensive skills..Golden's free throw shooting is certainly one of the most important reasons TN won several games and his lack of defense was the reason several were lost..how TN handles the point guard position may determine their success or lack of it..TN will have the inside game to win..if you look at he MTSU game you will see that MTSU had a much better point guard than TN..and their coach used that advantage at the right time..I think TN has a chance to be as good as any team in the SEC next year..and I don't think KY has another Anthony Davis coming in like some say...I know Martin will use Golden to get the most of his abilities and I hope Stanton gives him more options..

On the face of it, you have a point about Golden's lack of defensive skills. However, most of his most egregious breakdowns have come at the end of tight games, where the excessive minutes he had played before that finally caught up with him. By managing his minutes more astutely, he could be fresher in those vital last minutes.

Besides, he had minor foot and ankle injuries that probably impeded his lateral quickness at various times, which might have also been caused by playing too many minutes. Also, the team defense was not quite to the point that Martin would have preferred last year. Even though they play man-to-man, that doesn't mean every man is on his own. There are ways a smart defensive team can shade the defense to help on mismatches, and they weren't as good at that as they could be this year.

The fact is that the Vols just don't have anybody to play that position that brings any more to it, across the board, than Golden does. It may well be that he is just NOT good enough for the Vols to be the team they could be with a better PG, but what are you gonna do? I hope that Stanton becomes at least a serviceable backup, though the fact that he didn't play major minutes on one of Clemson's weaker recent teams doesn't fill me with confidence.

thevoice writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There are exceptions to every rule, but in general I like my chances with 4-5 star players better than 3-star players, hands down; pick the sport. The only exception would be if Martin's recruiting efforts can consistently be the exception to the rule.

And UK's 4/5-star players can't be anywhere close to the talent level of a 3-star. No, I don't think a 3-star is "just as good," senior or not. Did you watch the recent McD All Amer game? Those guys are living on a different planet.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to snuffy63#653562:

Yeah they trust their eyes on evaluations. That's why Kentucky beat them at Kentucky, by 25 points,and it's going to continue, as long as we recruit three stars. People say we have to trust them because they're the coach. Well Calapari's a coach too, and he gets it. I'm tired of taking all the dregs while Kentucky racks up #1 classes, back to back, to back. We have facilities that match up with anybody, so there's no real excuse for not being competitive with Kentucky, or any other school.

You must not have watched much SEC basketball for, oh, about the last 60 years, or you would know that UK has ALWAYS had better talent than darn near everybody else, darn near all the time. In that time, you could count the number of true super-stars that UT has had without taking your shoes off. When they did have such a player or two, they were MILES better than most of their teammates. Despite this, UT has won more games against UK than any other SEC school.

So, no, we are NOT UK; neither is anybody else in the SEC. For that matter, UK is the winningest program in all of college basketball history. So unless we want to go to paying top dollar to get players and hope nobody ever finds out about it, UT beating out UK for top talent or beating them on the floor more than about once in every two to four chances is just not that likely to happen, and there is no point in getting all torn up about it, or, worse yet, blaming Martin--after only one year on the job, I might add--for it.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to thevoice:

There are exceptions to every rule, but in general I like my chances with 4-5 star players better than 3-star players, hands down; pick the sport. The only exception would be if Martin's recruiting efforts can consistently be the exception to the rule.

And UK's 4/5-star players can't be anywhere close to the talent level of a 3-star. No, I don't think a 3-star is "just as good," senior or not. Did you watch the recent McD All Amer game? Those guys are living on a different planet.

Bear in mind also that those all-star games are just a somewhat higher-level Rocky Top League. Nobody plays defense except for trying to swat shots, nobody makes a pass that isn't intended to draw a "WHOOO!" from the crowd--and in fact nobody ever makes more than one or two passes per possession before somebody fires one up--and nobody sets screens or takes charges. I'm not saying that talent isn't NICE, I'm just saying that talent at a given level of competition will not determine BY ITSELF which guys will contribute to winning TEAMS or even necessarily winning CHAMPIONSHIPS. As I said in another post, UT has never been a mecca for that kind of talent, likely never will be, and has done--and can do--pretty well nevertheless.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I think we'll have a nice little battles in practices for PG. Golden probably has a fine head start at this point but I'm thinking Martin will coach 'em all up! YEAH! GBO

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Bear in mind also that those all-star games are just a somewhat higher-level Rocky Top League. Nobody plays defense except for trying to swat shots, nobody makes a pass that isn't intended to draw a "WHOOO!" from the crowd--and in fact nobody ever makes more than one or two passes per possession before somebody fires one up--and nobody sets screens or takes charges. I'm not saying that talent isn't NICE, I'm just saying that talent at a given level of competition will not determine BY ITSELF which guys will contribute to winning TEAMS or even necessarily winning CHAMPIONSHIPS. As I said in another post, UT has never been a mecca for that kind of talent, likely never will be, and has done--and can do--pretty well nevertheless.

LMAO!" "NEVER WILL BE" ??? I hope you're wrong about that though I agree with what you said other wise. Ok I SEE that you said "likely". I hope we get 5 or six 5 stars '13 and '14season. "likely" not. one or 2 would be awesome. But if not then I hope Martin performs well otherwise.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

On the face of it, you have a point about Golden's lack of defensive skills. However, most of his most egregious breakdowns have come at the end of tight games, where the excessive minutes he had played before that finally caught up with him. By managing his minutes more astutely, he could be fresher in those vital last minutes.

Besides, he had minor foot and ankle injuries that probably impeded his lateral quickness at various times, which might have also been caused by playing too many minutes. Also, the team defense was not quite to the point that Martin would have preferred last year. Even though they play man-to-man, that doesn't mean every man is on his own. There are ways a smart defensive team can shade the defense to help on mismatches, and they weren't as good at that as they could be this year.

The fact is that the Vols just don't have anybody to play that position that brings any more to it, across the board, than Golden does. It may well be that he is just NOT good enough for the Vols to be the team they could be with a better PG, but what are you gonna do? I hope that Stanton becomes at least a serviceable backup, though the fact that he didn't play major minutes on one of Clemson's weaker recent teams doesn't fill me with confidence.

I trust Martin and his staff to get the very most of what they have and hope playing Golden fewer minutes gets the results we all hope for..from what I see ..Golden's outside shot is outstanding in pressure situations and I hope to see him get more outside shots...unusual time to be looking forward to basketball season but I think it is going to be more than interesting..I think TN will have a strong front line....

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

You must not have watched much SEC basketball for, oh, about the last 60 years, or you would know that UK has ALWAYS had better talent than darn near everybody else, darn near all the time. In that time, you could count the number of true super-stars that UT has had without taking your shoes off. When they did have such a player or two, they were MILES better than most of their teammates. Despite this, UT has won more games against UK than any other SEC school.

So, no, we are NOT UK; neither is anybody else in the SEC. For that matter, UK is the winningest program in all of college basketball history. So unless we want to go to paying top dollar to get players and hope nobody ever finds out about it, UT beating out UK for top talent or beating them on the floor more than about once in every two to four chances is just not that likely to happen, and there is no point in getting all torn up about it, or, worse yet, blaming Martin--after only one year on the job, I might add--for it.

You are correct..KY has a history of more talented basketball players than any SEC school but this does not keep UT from having a strong basketball program and being competitive with KY..Stokely held 12,500 (I think) and sold out so many times we had to have more seats..some SEC schools still can't sell out 12,500..I am not bothered by who KY recruits near as much as others seem to be..if Cal does get caught so what..he should have enough funds to last him a while and only the school will suffer..such is the way of college basketball these days..anyway...I like Martin and the way he is going about his job...a total class act who cares enough about his players to want them to go to class and graduate...and I think TN will compete for the SEC top spot next year...

hueypilot writes:

In case some of you missed Sports Center, in Chicago, a few days ago former Vol C. J. Watson spelled a hapless Derrick Rose who finished with his lowest point total since his pro career began. CJ got 16, including a 3 pointer that sent the game that sent the game into OT, where he promptly hit another big shot and an assist for a dunk that allowed the Bulls to win over the Heat, and clinch home court advantage through the Eastern Division playoffs. Headlines in the Chicago Tribune for CJ the next am.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to hueypilot:

In case some of you missed Sports Center, in Chicago, a few days ago former Vol C. J. Watson spelled a hapless Derrick Rose who finished with his lowest point total since his pro career began. CJ got 16, including a 3 pointer that sent the game that sent the game into OT, where he promptly hit another big shot and an assist for a dunk that allowed the Bulls to win over the Heat, and clinch home court advantage through the Eastern Division playoffs. Headlines in the Chicago Tribune for CJ the next am.

Great point, I did hear one of the NBA goons mention CJ's great game, but turned right around and said anyone could fill in and do what he did..I don't think you'll get an argument from Noah about CJ's toughness and physical ability..GBO!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

You are correct..KY has a history of more talented basketball players than any SEC school but this does not keep UT from having a strong basketball program and being competitive with KY..Stokely held 12,500 (I think) and sold out so many times we had to have more seats..some SEC schools still can't sell out 12,500..I am not bothered by who KY recruits near as much as others seem to be..if Cal does get caught so what..he should have enough funds to last him a while and only the school will suffer..such is the way of college basketball these days..anyway...I like Martin and the way he is going about his job...a total class act who cares enough about his players to want them to go to class and graduate...and I think TN will compete for the SEC top spot next year...

I'm glad you got my point. I'm QUITE proud of UT's basketball program and its history for that matter. I'm NOT joining those who call Calapari a cheater because, whatever we might think or suspect, he has NOT been convicted of anything by the NCAA. If he has cheated, it will come out eventually because it darn near always does. In the meantime, the 'Cats DO represent a big target for the rest of the league and a level of success for everyone else to aspire to. That can't be a bad thing and, as I have said before, I expect the Vols to be right there competing with them all the way next year. No reason in my mind why the Vols can't be their chief rivals for years to come, as they frequently have been in years past. And besides, there is always my old mantra: You don't have to be the best team there IS, you just have to be the best team on the floor on a given night! GBO!!! GO ZO!!! TCB!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great post! Very well said!

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