Mike Strange: Ole Miss looks like an NCAA team; UT does not

Mike Strange
Tennessee center Yemi Makanjuola (0) falls to the ground after being fouled by Mississippi forward Reginald Buckner (23) in the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee center Yemi Makanjuola (0) falls to the ground after being fouled by Mississippi forward Reginald Buckner (23) in the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

The SEC men's basketball season is under way. One game in, there's already a theme:

Escape from the NIT.

The SEC has expanded from 12 to 14 teams this winter but don't look for the league to have an expanded presence when the NCAA tournament bracket is unveiled in just over two months.

Florida is a cinch. Kentucky, the defending champion (minus virtually all its defending champions), will get there. Newcomer Missouri appears to have the right stuff.

Then it's a scrum for the fourth bid — if there is to be a fourth bid in what is clearly a down year.

Ole Miss raised its hand Wednesday night. The Rebels emphatically passed their first test of the SEC season.

Tennessee just as emphatically failed its own.

Getting run out of their own building, 92-74, was hardly the start to conference play the Vols envisioned.

"We didn't expect this to happen,'' said sophomore Jarnell Stokes. "We go into every game expecting to win and that's not an exaggeration.''

No exaggeration, the Vols have surrendered 177 points in the past two games.

Ole Miss didn't shoot lights out like Memphis did here five nights earlier, but, like Memphis, the Rebels did make UT's defense look a step slow.

That partly explained the free-throw disparity that kept the Vols behind the 8-ball from the early minutes on. Field goals were a wash, 25 each. The Rebels shot 44 free throws to UT's 26.

There's a lot of hay to get in the barn yet, but coach Andy Kennedy and his team (12-2) had every reason to celebrate.

Ole Miss holds the longest NCAA tournament drought in the SEC, dating to 2002.

They could, on the other hand, write a book on the NIT, having partaken of college basketball's consolation prize five times in Kennedy's six seasons.

Tennessee, by the way, is partly to blame. The Rebels hadn't won in Knoxville since 1991, a streak covering 12 games over 22 years.

But that's all over now. Tennessee is the team with a losing streak to lug along as it heads to Alabama on Saturday.

"Great job by Ole Miss,'' conceded UT coach Cuonzo Martin.

Great job by many of the same Rebels who eliminated the Vols from the SEC tournament last March in New Orleans — and in the process doomed UT to the NIT. Hasn't Murphy Holloway been playing at Ole Miss since Archie Manning was flinging passes?

But there was one new twist. Kennedy went out and recruited the junior college player of the year. Marshall Henderson torched the Vols for 32 points.

The only Tennessee newcomer who contributed — in a positive way — was Derek Reese, with seven points.

Speaking of Reese, an image captured in the final seconds, long after most of the crowd of 17,057 had vacated, was telling.

Ole Miss senior Reginald Buckner rose up over Reese, the freshman playing in his second game, and ferociously dunked an offensive rebound, drawing a Reese foul in the bargain for the last of those 44 free throws.

The Rebels, tougher, more aggressive and in some cases more experienced, looked like a team that, come March, wouldn't be out of place in a first-round NCAA tournament game somewhere.

The Vols? They looked like the team we saw last March, losing an NIT game in this same building.

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

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Comments » 18

Boyds_Creek_Boy writes:

They should not have been able to come away with a win at TB Arena. It's going to be another long season.

DC82_Vol writes:

Yeah, so when are we going to recruit a point guard or someone who can make shots? We flat out got whipped. Embarrassing. Coach Martin is starting to sound like Dooley. Wait until January, uh wait until February, uh we didn't quite have the season we were expecting...but we played hard. Whatever.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Promote CCM to Asst Athletic Director in charge of Basketball to ride herd on Bruce.

Bring Bruce back when his NCAA jail time is done.

"Show Cause" = "sho', 'cause we suck, and there is no fun in TBA anymore".

jt45 writes:

Right now now they dont even look like an NIT team. Its getting worse not better.

bigdisbig writes:

Attendance speaks volumes. Another game like this one and the Arena will be empty. Once again....you get what you pay for in coaching.

johnlg00 writes:

The Vols certainly didn't do themselves any favors last night. I don't know whether it is because some of the guys are slightly dinged up or most of the newcomers are not fully integrated yet, but the team has had a hard time getting in synch so far this season. McRae and Richardson are the only ones who have scored consistently and the defense recently has seemed, as Strange said, a step slow. Despite too many quick three-pointers and missed shots inside, the offense has actually improved lately when they are penetrating, as they did in the second halves of the last two games.

Oddly, though, the defense has regressed lately. I noticed several occasions last night where perimeter defenders seemed to raise up out of their stances to try to move in front of drivers instead of sliding over while staying low. This made them vulnerable to the driver's second move, causing the defender to reach with his arms to stop the drive, resulting in too many fouls even when the guy didn't penetrate all the way to the middle.

Post defenders especially fall too easily for shot fakes. There are NO natural shot-blockers on this team except maybe McRae, so there is just no reason why any of the rest of them should twitch whenever an opponent makes a shot fake. It is harder at any range to make a shot over a defender who is in decent balanced position with his arms up than it is to shoot over an off-balance defender or one who takes himself out of a play by falling for a shot fake.

The guys are going to have to have a heart-to-heart talk with each other and decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward. They need to hold themselves and their teammates accountable, but hopefully in an encouraging way. This may be biggest effect of Maymon's absence on the floor. There is still a long way to go in this season, and still a lot of potential on this squad, but they are just going to have to get their minds right if they are to salvage it.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

??? I have lots of ??? But I still think we'll be a decent team by March. I really like Golden but he's just not dependable at Point the last two games against quicker opponents...same with Wichita State. I think he'd be fine at 2. Heck Put Richardson or McRae at point!! At least you'd have quickness and height. I don't pretend to know the answer with the point but Golden's just not producing right now. I'm not sure he can. McBee hasn't seemed to do near as well as he did at times last year on defense. The only guard really that seems to be playing defense right now is Richardson. BUT you have to give the other teams some credit. They were just flat out better in these games. I may forgive the Vols if they beat Kentucky and Florida.hehe I don't know about Florida this season but Kentucky?? maybe at home.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The Vols certainly didn't do themselves any favors last night. I don't know whether it is because some of the guys are slightly dinged up or most of the newcomers are not fully integrated yet, but the team has had a hard time getting in synch so far this season. McRae and Richardson are the only ones who have scored consistently and the defense recently has seemed, as Strange said, a step slow. Despite too many quick three-pointers and missed shots inside, the offense has actually improved lately when they are penetrating, as they did in the second halves of the last two games.

Oddly, though, the defense has regressed lately. I noticed several occasions last night where perimeter defenders seemed to raise up out of their stances to try to move in front of drivers instead of sliding over while staying low. This made them vulnerable to the driver's second move, causing the defender to reach with his arms to stop the drive, resulting in too many fouls even when the guy didn't penetrate all the way to the middle.

Post defenders especially fall too easily for shot fakes. There are NO natural shot-blockers on this team except maybe McRae, so there is just no reason why any of the rest of them should twitch whenever an opponent makes a shot fake. It is harder at any range to make a shot over a defender who is in decent balanced position with his arms up than it is to shoot over an off-balance defender or one who takes himself out of a play by falling for a shot fake.

The guys are going to have to have a heart-to-heart talk with each other and decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward. They need to hold themselves and their teammates accountable, but hopefully in an encouraging way. This may be biggest effect of Maymon's absence on the floor. There is still a long way to go in this season, and still a lot of potential on this squad, but they are just going to have to get their minds right if they are to salvage it.

John, you know I respect your opinion.

Some keys, though:
The ole miss guys watched the memphis film, did the same one-handed floater drives. They recognized they could turn the corner and get that shot off (I used to love that shot).

Next, the shooting: plenty of good looks, but all bricks.

Next, the pace. CCM wants to grind it out, bu to grind it out you need BOTH offensive and defensive efficiency.

What comes to mind is that maybe, just maybe, these guys might play better at run and gun.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I wish you wouldn't respond to posts and make things up!! I didn't say that. Any of it.

I have no problems with disagreement and like to debate. but I can't stand the kinds of responses that never really respond to what is said.

As for your statements. I have no idea what you've posted the last six months because I just don't remember or even know if I read them. However I do read most the stuff on here.

1. UT beating Kentucky. We have a shot here at UT because we have shown the ability to play defense. we'll have to keep them out of the paint in order to win. simplified
2. Ut Beating Florida...probably won't happen. But I thought the dame thing last year.
3. Pearl coming back?? Give over he's gone forever. I liked his genius of the game. I liked most of what he did. But he'll go elsewhere when he can and if he can.
4. You are not a UT fan. Quit pretending.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

adios amigos. i wasn't offended and again you didn't read anything that was said. You only want an argument and you are not a UT fan. If I'm crying it's the allergies. I'm allergic to non-fans.hehe

johnlg00 writes:

in response to emailnodata:

John, you know I respect your opinion.

Some keys, though:
The ole miss guys watched the memphis film, did the same one-handed floater drives. They recognized they could turn the corner and get that shot off (I used to love that shot).

Next, the shooting: plenty of good looks, but all bricks.

Next, the pace. CCM wants to grind it out, bu to grind it out you need BOTH offensive and defensive efficiency.

What comes to mind is that maybe, just maybe, these guys might play better at run and gun.

I think you are right about most of this. I was just trying to point out WHY I thought they were vulnerable to those drives. I think the last couple of games have shown that they are indeed a bit more effective on offense when they push the pace a bit more.

As for the shooting, some of the guys look a bit rushed in trying to get their shots up. This is a rather subtle point, but while a quick release would seem to be a good thing, the best pure shooters know how to take their time. Their motion looks relaxed. For the most part, if you have to shoot quickly to get off an outside shot, you probably shouldn't be taking it. USE THE SHOT FAKE and drive if a guy is closing out fast on you.

In fact, if you take your time getting your feet set and raising the ball to shooting position, some opponents will try to anticipate the shot and go up too early. If they stay back, you already have the shot measured and can put it up with confidence. Some Vol opponents seem to do that very effectively.

wigmeister writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The Vols certainly didn't do themselves any favors last night. I don't know whether it is because some of the guys are slightly dinged up or most of the newcomers are not fully integrated yet, but the team has had a hard time getting in synch so far this season. McRae and Richardson are the only ones who have scored consistently and the defense recently has seemed, as Strange said, a step slow. Despite too many quick three-pointers and missed shots inside, the offense has actually improved lately when they are penetrating, as they did in the second halves of the last two games.

Oddly, though, the defense has regressed lately. I noticed several occasions last night where perimeter defenders seemed to raise up out of their stances to try to move in front of drivers instead of sliding over while staying low. This made them vulnerable to the driver's second move, causing the defender to reach with his arms to stop the drive, resulting in too many fouls even when the guy didn't penetrate all the way to the middle.

Post defenders especially fall too easily for shot fakes. There are NO natural shot-blockers on this team except maybe McRae, so there is just no reason why any of the rest of them should twitch whenever an opponent makes a shot fake. It is harder at any range to make a shot over a defender who is in decent balanced position with his arms up than it is to shoot over an off-balance defender or one who takes himself out of a play by falling for a shot fake.

The guys are going to have to have a heart-to-heart talk with each other and decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward. They need to hold themselves and their teammates accountable, but hopefully in an encouraging way. This may be biggest effect of Maymon's absence on the floor. There is still a long way to go in this season, and still a lot of potential on this squad, but they are just going to have to get their minds right if they are to salvage it.

Good post.

Teams have to play to the strengths of their personnel. The problem we have is either we don't have enough consistent strength anywhere, or CCM is not adept enough to recognize what we do have, and produce a game plan that can utilize them. Had high hopes for CCM. They are fading.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

We're still ahead of this time last year.

Tennfan4075 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

We're still ahead of this time last year.

And that will get you into which tournament? Forget it, these guys will continue to stink.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

The Vols certainly didn't do themselves any favors last night. I don't know whether it is because some of the guys are slightly dinged up or most of the newcomers are not fully integrated yet, but the team has had a hard time getting in synch so far this season. McRae and Richardson are the only ones who have scored consistently and the defense recently has seemed, as Strange said, a step slow. Despite too many quick three-pointers and missed shots inside, the offense has actually improved lately when they are penetrating, as they did in the second halves of the last two games.

Oddly, though, the defense has regressed lately. I noticed several occasions last night where perimeter defenders seemed to raise up out of their stances to try to move in front of drivers instead of sliding over while staying low. This made them vulnerable to the driver's second move, causing the defender to reach with his arms to stop the drive, resulting in too many fouls even when the guy didn't penetrate all the way to the middle.

Post defenders especially fall too easily for shot fakes. There are NO natural shot-blockers on this team except maybe McRae, so there is just no reason why any of the rest of them should twitch whenever an opponent makes a shot fake. It is harder at any range to make a shot over a defender who is in decent balanced position with his arms up than it is to shoot over an off-balance defender or one who takes himself out of a play by falling for a shot fake.

The guys are going to have to have a heart-to-heart talk with each other and decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward. They need to hold themselves and their teammates accountable, but hopefully in an encouraging way. This may be biggest effect of Maymon's absence on the floor. There is still a long way to go in this season, and still a lot of potential on this squad, but they are just going to have to get their minds right if they are to salvage it.

Interesting observations John..at present ..it seems to me the opposing teams are exposing UT's weak points..Ole Miss was far more physical..Hall couldn't handle it..Yemi did a far better job..Stokes played hard and was much better in this game than some could see..guard play is horrible on offense and defense..isolate Golden and take him to the basket any time..same as last year against MTSU..opposing coaches are simply using this when needed..zone was good idea..but then they couldn't cover Henderson..still a long way to go..true.. but it ain't looking good right now..I did not understand the early subs in the Ole Miss game..leading 6-5 and the starting team looking good..UT subs and Ole Miss goes on a run..wasn't much of a game after that..

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to decades_vol:

Good post?!?

One_in_West_Knox writes:

in response to decades_vol:

...then, again, maybe there is nothing to say about the Vols, even if they HAD won against Alabama, especially after those three consecutive and embarrassing turnovers late in the game.

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