Mike Strange: Is Jordan McRae being asked to do too much?

Mississippi forward Murphy Holloway (31) knocks back Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) as he sets up for a shot during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Oxford, Miss. No. 23 Mississippi won 62-56. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi forward Murphy Holloway (31) knocks back Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) as he sets up for a shot during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Oxford, Miss. No. 23 Mississippi won 62-56. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

In November, which Tennessee candidate would you have projected on the All-SEC basketball team?

First choice: Jeronne Maymon.

Second choice: Jarnell Stokes.

Third choice: Trae Golden, maybe.

Who is actually playing at an All-SEC level?

None of the above. Try Jordan McRae.

I doubt McRae got any write-in votes on the preseason All-SEC ballot. That's understandable.

As a freshman, he saw the floor for all of 53 minutes, scattered over 10 games.

As a sophomore, potential began to emerge. He averaged 8.6 points, started 15 games and had several highlights, namely scoring 25 in back-to-back early-season games.

McRae, the junior, has come a long way from the high-strung freshman who was once disciplined for inappropriate behavior on a team bus with boosters present.

McRae, the junior, is doing his best to carry the Vols through a difficult period.

And McRae, the junior, is being asked to do a bit too much.

The Vols are back in Thompson-Boling Arena today against Alabama for another January must-win game. McRae can't afford to call in sick.

On the season, McRae is averaging 14.5 points. His original role as a spark off the bench was eliminated as an unaffordable luxury. Too many balky starts were putting the Vols in early holes. UT needed McRae at the opening tip.

In five SEC games — the Vols are 1-4 — McRae is averaging 21.6 points and 36.2 minutes. He's the No. 2 scorer in conference play behind Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson. Only Auburn's Frankie Sullivan gets less rest.

He's scored 21 or more in five of the past six games. Being UT's leading scorer is a role McRae no doubt relished. Who wouldn't?

But I doubt he envisioned himself taking on the responsibility of being the lead point guard. Let's just say it's not a natural fit.

Coach Cuonzo Martin downplays the significance of having a dominant point guard in his motion offense. But I bet he'd love to have one.

McRae is essentially a 6-5 wing playing the point because no one else has met Martin's standard of efficiency. Golden, the erstwhile starter, still plays significant minutes. Virtually every other perimeter player has taken a turn.

Not coincidentally, a trend in the Vols' inability to close out games has been the perils of shoddy ball-handling.

In the latest chapter, a commendable effort Thursday night at Ole Miss was sabotaged by 21 turnovers.

UT's media notes don't list the last time a player had nine turnovers in a game — as McRae did in the 62-56 loss to the Rebels — but I can't remember one.

Some (not all) arose from a 6-5 wing being thrust into the role of primary ball-handler. Maybe another couple could be charged to fatigue from playing 39 minutes in a contest that at times resembled rugby.

That also might explain his two free-throw misses at the 2:32 mark with Ole Miss up 58-56. He'd made 11 of 12 to that point.

Bottom line, until someone else steps up to share the load, much will be asked of McRae.

So when you arrive at the arena today, if McRae takes your ticket at the front door, smile and pat him on the back.

If he sings the national anthem, applaud warmly.

He'll give his all for Tennessee today. There just might not be enough of him to go around.

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

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 32

underthehill writes:

McRae should not have been put in a situation where he was chasing Henderson..no excuse for that..expending too much energy..and no way he could keep up..Kennedy did a good job keeping Henderson fresh on offense by getting him out on defense..UT could have done the same with McRae..yes ..McRae is being asked to do too much..Golden is being asked to do something he cannot do..hope this gets resolved before next year..

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say McRae turning into a star in front of our eyes..maybe Nicodemus can get 15 more pounds on him this summer. Witch Doctor also impressed with Moore..he might be a catch? Witch Doctor say his shot blocking is incredible.
Bones never lie.
*Golden must have a girlfriend he seems really distracted at away games...anyone else notice his head and heart aint in away games(?)
Bones never lie.

born2ride writes:

McRae is the only good player we have.

Golden is a horrible point guard.

Stokes stays in foul trouble and is a liability because of his horrendous free three shooting.

Kenny Hall is awful. Just plain awful.

Moore and Richardson make too many mistakes. Yemi is a project.

Skylar can't shoot anymore.

We give Martin 3 years like we did Dooley. If Martin can 't do any better than this we get rid of the guy.

Go Big Vols!

Orange For Life!

wigmeister writes:

McRae and Richardson playing well. Had Henderson under control. Martin changes defensive assignments, and we lose. This loss is on Martin's head. Need PG that can move, dish, run the offense, and then shoot. Golden too slow and prone to handling errors. Believe Golden and McBee have become head cases. Skylar did have Henderson defensively. Pulling him out was stupid. Not sure, anymore, how god a court coach under pressure CCM is. Crying to the SEC is not the answer. Have to let the officials know at the time of the problems. Walking around with a zipper on your mouth during games does not help. The new guys deserve the playing time they get, and maybe more.

underthehill writes:

in response to born2ride:

McRae is the only good player we have.

Golden is a horrible point guard.

Stokes stays in foul trouble and is a liability because of his horrendous free three shooting.

Kenny Hall is awful. Just plain awful.

Moore and Richardson make too many mistakes. Yemi is a project.

Skylar can't shoot anymore.

We give Martin 3 years like we did Dooley. If Martin can 't do any better than this we get rid of the guy.

Go Big Vols!

Orange For Life!

Against my better judgement to explain but ..Kenny Hall played very well against Ole Miss..I am one of his worst critics..so I will give credit when he proves me wrong..he did just that against Ole Miss..UT won the front line battle..in spite of Stokes getting in foul trouble..Moore is a raw talent who Martin recognized when others did not..he has already passed Richardson and gets better every game..don't have to know much basketball to know Golden is not a point guard..but since UT finished 2nd in the SEC last year with him playing that position ..he is not as bad as you say..and since he is playing point this year..it is obviously because he is the best option..I do hope Martin gets this resolved by next year..Golden may be one of the best 3 point shooters UT has ever had but he has not got to play the 2 as he should..I am guilty of being overly critical of players same as most..but the fact is no fan should ever be that critical of the players..it falls on the coaches who give the scholarships and coach em..

Rumblefish writes:

He's not being asked to do to much...he's just being asked to EARN HIS SCHOLARSHIP.

Oh gee...what a novel idea.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

It pretty much takes at least 3 guys to score in double figures to get a win and it's not happening..Richardson for whatever reason has dropped off while McRae has been on the rise. The one thing I like about this team is we have 4 players capable of having a big night in any given game..Problem is we get good production from only 2 at best.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Reading the other article on Stokes....
This is the SEC Cuonzo; if your team sucks, as yours does, then the reffing calls go against you when you play a 'ranked' team.

Worked for us for a brief while with Bruce...but mostly against us.

The reffing in the Ole Miss game was pathetic.

ronburgundy (Inactive) writes:

Watching this team week in and week out is like scratching a bad rash. The harder you itch and the more you want the problem to go away it just seems to get worse. There is some good talent on this team, but they don't seem to know how to work as a unit (at all) They always seem to be in panic mode with no sign of any sort of game plan. Losing Maymon for the season certainly hurt but not to the extent that people seem go on about. He's a solid player but not exactly a blue chipper. They just don't seem to have any chemistry or continuity and it really shows the last five minutes of most games. I've never been a McRae fan but without the guy right now they'd really be in a world of hurt. I'm not a coach basher, but this guy just doesn't seem to be able to find a way to get the best out of the guys he's got. I listened to an interveiw this morning and he sounds like a broken record. Quotes a few stats and talks about working on getting better. Oh, well. Thought about going to Thompson Boling today but decided against it. Could probably get a good deal on tickets but I can get frustrated at home for alot less money.

hikerdude writes:

Remember 5 years ago when UT basketball was fun and exciting? BBB

ronburgundy (Inactive) writes:

in response to hikerdude:

Remember 5 years ago when UT basketball was fun and exciting? BBB

I remember fondly and miss it badly but don't look for them to bring Bruce back. Just too much bad press when he left. Somebody else will hire him and they'll have lots of fun there. He did what most other coach's do at major universities as far as recruiting but handled it poorly when he got busted. Super coach, super motivator bad decision when it counted.

mborokyvol writes:

in response to I_STILL_OWN_MANY:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

First of all, you can't be a Vol fan, so your ridiculous comments don't matter! Second,if your this critical,please tell us what your stat line was last game. Were you a college standout? Did you sit the bench in high school. Maybe, you were a star in the pee-wee league?

6futurevols writes:

The loss of Maymon is crippling this team. It is easy to forget how often we used Maymon to bring the ball up court last year in critical situations. I think that was very critical to Golden's success and allowed him to get in his halfcourt game, where he is comfortable. I cannot believe that people are comparing Dooley to Coach Martin. This team always plays hard and greatly overachieved last year with the players that were left behind by Bruce. Bruce was an awesome coach and did incredible things, but he did leave a pretty bare cupboard, especially at point guard, which is why we were picked 11th out of 12 teams last year. Those results left us all with high expectations for this year, but that was before the loss of Maymon.

Recruiting B-ball is at least a 2-yr process if not longer. This incoming class will be a real reflection of Cuonzo's recruiting acumen. I still think that he is an excellent coach, a great role model, and positive example for the University. If we struggle next year, then the criticism will be called for. I think that we will be very good next year and I have not given up hope for this year as I see some positive things, especially the development of some of the younger players. The lack of a true PG is a liability, but I lay that at the feet of the previous coach, not the current one.

DC82_Vol writes:

in response to underthehill:

Against my better judgement to explain but ..Kenny Hall played very well against Ole Miss..I am one of his worst critics..so I will give credit when he proves me wrong..he did just that against Ole Miss..UT won the front line battle..in spite of Stokes getting in foul trouble..Moore is a raw talent who Martin recognized when others did not..he has already passed Richardson and gets better every game..don't have to know much basketball to know Golden is not a point guard..but since UT finished 2nd in the SEC last year with him playing that position ..he is not as bad as you say..and since he is playing point this year..it is obviously because he is the best option..I do hope Martin gets this resolved by next year..Golden may be one of the best 3 point shooters UT has ever had but he has not got to play the 2 as he should..I am guilty of being overly critical of players same as most..but the fact is no fan should ever be that critical of the players..it falls on the coaches who give the scholarships and coach em..

I agree. Perhaps CCM should have hired better assistant coaches instead of friends? When teams don't get better and keep making the same mistakes...that to me is bad coaching.

JimmyJoe writes:

No hope this year for Conzo Dooley and his weak@$$ team.

Ironcity writes:

in response to 6futurevols:

The loss of Maymon is crippling this team. It is easy to forget how often we used Maymon to bring the ball up court last year in critical situations. I think that was very critical to Golden's success and allowed him to get in his halfcourt game, where he is comfortable. I cannot believe that people are comparing Dooley to Coach Martin. This team always plays hard and greatly overachieved last year with the players that were left behind by Bruce. Bruce was an awesome coach and did incredible things, but he did leave a pretty bare cupboard, especially at point guard, which is why we were picked 11th out of 12 teams last year. Those results left us all with high expectations for this year, but that was before the loss of Maymon.

Recruiting B-ball is at least a 2-yr process if not longer. This incoming class will be a real reflection of Cuonzo's recruiting acumen. I still think that he is an excellent coach, a great role model, and positive example for the University. If we struggle next year, then the criticism will be called for. I think that we will be very good next year and I have not given up hope for this year as I see some positive things, especially the development of some of the younger players. The lack of a true PG is a liability, but I lay that at the feet of the previous coach, not the current one.

Coach Martin has had two years to address the lack of a PG and chose to not address it. Coach Pearl actually had two PGs signed, one (Jones now going to Louisville) did not get in the other Ware was released from his commitment and went to Louisville. Martin keeps saying he doesn't need a PG. As far as I can tell he is the only one that thinks that.

JimmyJoe writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Coach Martin has had two years to address the lack of a PG and chose to not address it. Coach Pearl actually had two PGs signed, one (Jones now going to Louisville) did not get in the other Ware was released from his commitment and went to Louisville. Martin keeps saying he doesn't need a PG. As far as I can tell he is the only one that thinks that.

Coach Conzo Dooley is correct in that he doesn't need a Point Guard. He doesn't know how to use one...therefore he doesn't need one.

Ironcity writes:

in response to DC82_Vol:

I agree. Perhaps CCM should have hired better assistant coaches instead of friends? When teams don't get better and keep making the same mistakes...that to me is bad coaching.

Sometimes that means bad players. My biggest complaint with coach martin is everyone could see UT was thin at the PG position. For some reason he chose to ignore it and signed a 6ft 5in wing (Moore) and pronounced him the back up PG. It took all of one game to realize he had no skills to be a PG and its a little disturbing that a coach can look at his film and somehow come to the conclusion that he was skilled enough to handle that position. In the college game the PG is the most important position yet Martin has chosen and continues to choose to ignore the issue.

JimmyJoe writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Sometimes that means bad players. My biggest complaint with coach martin is everyone could see UT was thin at the PG position. For some reason he chose to ignore it and signed a 6ft 5in wing (Moore) and pronounced him the back up PG. It took all of one game to realize he had no skills to be a PG and its a little disturbing that a coach can look at his film and somehow come to the conclusion that he was skilled enough to handle that position. In the college game the PG is the most important position yet Martin has chosen and continues to choose to ignore the issue.

I don't think Coach Conzo Dooley is choosing to ignore... I think he just doesn't understand it. I had said early on this year that the only chance this team had was for trae golden to play about 37 minutes a game and take it to the basket every trip down the floor and either score, get fouled or make a dish to one of those bigs... Or flip out for an open three. I would have used all timeouts to rest golden... He chose not to do that...wasted a lot of court time with McBee who does not have the Ath. Ability to compete in the SEC. Then Golden seemed to look lost.. And then uneffective.... And now it doesn't really matter what he does... And Conzo Dooley just has no idea what to do.

tnvolfan30 writes:

Maybe the gamr should be tailored by the style of players we have instead of saying we need a better PG. Conzo is being too stubborn by fitting a round peg in to a square hole. Also, does anyone really think Stokes was a 5* player? Not to me he doesn't. And that falls under coaching as well. Instead of Conzo Dooley, try Conzo Fulmer/Peterson.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

in response to 6futurevols:

The loss of Maymon is crippling this team. It is easy to forget how often we used Maymon to bring the ball up court last year in critical situations. I think that was very critical to Golden's success and allowed him to get in his halfcourt game, where he is comfortable. I cannot believe that people are comparing Dooley to Coach Martin. This team always plays hard and greatly overachieved last year with the players that were left behind by Bruce. Bruce was an awesome coach and did incredible things, but he did leave a pretty bare cupboard, especially at point guard, which is why we were picked 11th out of 12 teams last year. Those results left us all with high expectations for this year, but that was before the loss of Maymon.

Recruiting B-ball is at least a 2-yr process if not longer. This incoming class will be a real reflection of Cuonzo's recruiting acumen. I still think that he is an excellent coach, a great role model, and positive example for the University. If we struggle next year, then the criticism will be called for. I think that we will be very good next year and I have not given up hope for this year as I see some positive things, especially the development of some of the younger players. The lack of a true PG is a liability, but I lay that at the feet of the previous coach, not the current one.

The one post that has clarity and makes sense.

HtownVol writes:

10-5 Bama and Tennessee is horrible, AGAIN

HtownVol writes:

OK, it is 10-7 Bama..

Tennessee has had 3 chances to get a easy layup but does not look for the open man.

Then they get double teamed and cant pass the ball.

They take too much time and then have to rush and most of the time ends badly.

The offense for tennessee is just the worst thing I have ever seen,

HtownVol writes:

I accept that C Martin cant teach scoring BUT someone please tell me why he allows the team to give away the ball because of lazy passes.
In the first half I have seen 6-7 lazy passes that cause the ball to get turned over.
Can he not fix that I would think that is coachable.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

NOpe...this team learned absolutely nothing from the Ole' Miss game. Still turning the ball over. Still can't hit the broad side of a barn. Still getting beat for 3's all the time... Gonna be another long season.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

McRae is probably being asked to do too much because he has to...because everyone else is doing NOTHING

Smokey91 writes:

in response to JimmyJoe:

No hope this year for Conzo Dooley and his weak@$$ team.

I have started calling him Coach Zooley.

Ironcity writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I accept that C Martin cant teach scoring BUT someone please tell me why he allows the team to give away the ball because of lazy passes.
In the first half I have seen 6-7 lazy passes that cause the ball to get turned over.
Can he not fix that I would think that is coachable.

The problem is we practice against ourselves. Since no one ever jumps the passing lane in a game or practice those lazy passes are effective in practice. UT really is the easiest team in the country to defend. You can take chances all day and never have to worry about paying the price. Coach Pearls first four teams would beat this team by 20+ every single time. Its the reason why Ole Miss sees UT as such an easy win.

BeRealistic writes:

Defense is good. Offense, too much dribbling & no scorers.

Ironcity writes:

Its about time we got a break from the refs.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

We....really....WON this game??? AWESOME!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ronburgundy:

Watching this team week in and week out is like scratching a bad rash. The harder you itch and the more you want the problem to go away it just seems to get worse. There is some good talent on this team, but they don't seem to know how to work as a unit (at all) They always seem to be in panic mode with no sign of any sort of game plan. Losing Maymon for the season certainly hurt but not to the extent that people seem go on about. He's a solid player but not exactly a blue chipper. They just don't seem to have any chemistry or continuity and it really shows the last five minutes of most games. I've never been a McRae fan but without the guy right now they'd really be in a world of hurt. I'm not a coach basher, but this guy just doesn't seem to be able to find a way to get the best out of the guys he's got. I listened to an interveiw this morning and he sounds like a broken record. Quotes a few stats and talks about working on getting better. Oh, well. Thought about going to Thompson Boling today but decided against it. Could probably get a good deal on tickets but I can get frustrated at home for alot less money.

True, Maymon may not have been the biggest star UT ever had, but that is somewhat beside the point. I think of him as a bigger and more-skilled Dane Bradshaw. Bradshaw may have had the worst pure stats of any starter in the SEC, but he was a leader who helped get the most out of every player. A team is more than the mere sum of its parts. There are people who claim to be fans who still don't think Bradshaw did anything for the team, but he was no further than second down the list of players opposing coaches said they wished they had from UT's team on their own. Maymon was that guy, the main "chemistry" guy, for this team. Just wait and see how much better this team will be next year if he is back 100%, and it won't only be because of his stats.

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