Rick Barnes, Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Basketball revamps after three players join NBA.

Tennessee basketball battled through the SEC to make it into the NCAA tournament and lose in the first round to Oregon State. The Volunteers had Yves Pons graduate and signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. Keon Johnson was picked in the first round by the New York Knicks and traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Finally, the last signing star was Jaden Springer who was taken in the first round with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Tennessee basketball also lost a few players to the transfer portal, including E.J. Anosike to Cal State Fullerton, Davonte Gaines to George Mason, and Drew Pember went to UNC Ashville.

Coach Rick Barnes recruited some high talent, including three five-star recruits and a four-star recruit. Justin Powell, a sophomore guard from Auburn, highlights the list for the Vols. Powell should have a major impact on Tennessee basketball.

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Projected Rotation

PG: Santiago Vescovi (6-3, 188, Jr.)

2021 stats: 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals

Projected stats: 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 steals

SG: Victor Bailey Jr. (6-4, 179, Sr.)

2021 stats: 10.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists

Projected stats: 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists

SF: Justin Powell (6-6, 205, So.)

2021 stats: 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists (Auburn)

Projected stats: 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists

PF: John Fulkerson (6-9, 215, Gr. Sr.)

2021 stats: 9.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Projected stats: 10.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists

C: Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (6-9, 230, Fr.)

247Sports #25 overall rated recruit

Projected stats: 8.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks

6: Kennedy Chandler (6-1, 165, Fr.)

247Sports #8 overall rated recruit

Projected stats: 6.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists

7: Josiah-Jordan James (6-6, 207, Jr.)

2021 stats: 8.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks

Projected stats: 9.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks

8: Jonas Aidoo (6-11, 215, Fr.)

247Sports 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 4.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

9: Jahmai Mashack (6-5, 190, Fr.)

247Sports 4-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 5.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists

10: Olivier Nkamhoua (6-8, 223, So.)

2021 stats: 2.3 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.3 blocks

Projected stats: 4.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.9 blocks

11: Uros Plavsic (7-0, 262, So.)

2021 stats: 1.1 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.3 assists

Projected stats: 3.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists

Team MVP: Victor Bailey Jr.

With the loss of Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson to professional careers, Victor Bailey Jr. is the leading scorer to return to Tennessee basketball. The Volunteers will need him to continue his success with scoring and believe he can surpass Springer’s 12.5 points per game last year.

A lot is being put on Bailey’s plate as he will need to fill multiple roles. Coach Barnes was able to limit his minutes and should see an expanded role. Tennessee basketball will need to play smarter than last year and was highly competitive with Johnson and Springer in most stats. While he didn’t always get the start, Bailey showed his ability to do it all when scoring.

Make or Break Player: Justin Powell

Tennessee basketball hopes that Justin Powell comes in and fills a shooting hole left by Springer and Johnson. His length and ball handling ability allow Powell to be a strong shooter. The Volunteers landed a very talented sophomore who made a big splash in the SEC. This team is hoping that Powell can step it up on the defensive side, as he should easily contribute on the offensive side.

His size for a guard is super impressive and allows him to stretch defenses and defend guards and forwards, making for significant mismatches. Powell could very quickly be the go-to player for Tennessee basketball on the offensive side, and his length means he can cut, jam, pull up and find lanes. Pulling in defenses, Powell could also see an outlet pass and increase his assist rate, which was extremely high at Auburn at 4.7 assists per game in a minimal sample size of ten games.

After suffering a severe concussion, Powell missed the rest of the conference season. Auburn had a self-imposed postseason ban. Powell scored 26 points in back-to-back games against South Alabama and Memphis and shot a crazy 44.2% from beyond the arch. Losing Johnson and Springer, Tennessee basketball hopes for an entire season and a masterful one at that out of this former top 100 player.

Bench Rating: 9/10

Tennessee basketball continues to have high-level recruits, and coach Rick Barnes keeps it balanced and continues to bring in length and talent. There will be a serious battle between Vescovi and Chandler for the starting point guard role, but Vescovi will more than likely hold that position to start the season.

James is the big returning player off the bench and whether he comes in along with Vescovi or Chandler will create one of the best short benches in the SEC.

After the six and seven men, it’s up to a few highly recruited freshmen and other underclassmen to round out the Tennessee basketball bench. The Vols should have a lot of depth to be able to run with opponents and always have multiple scorers on the court.

Analytic to Know: AdjD

The Vols were fifth in adjusted defense last season and have the tools to repeat with another fantastic defensive season.

Vescovi is a crafty defender, Huntley-Hatfield has the size to alter shots down low and Rick Barnes is blessed with a lot of lengthy defenders that will be able to guard multiple positions.

Losing Keon Johnson and especially Yves Pons will almost certainly be a tall task to replace, but this Volunteers team still has the ability to be a top-three defensive team in a conference where that is needed to finish high in the conference.

Team Outlook

Tennessee basketball put together an intense non-conference schedule and the blessing of an influential conference.

The Volunteers have the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament that consists of their first game against Villanova with opportunities to play against Purdue or North Carolina. Tennessee basketball will also face Colorado, Texas Tech, Memphis, Texas, and Arizona.


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With the difficulty of this conference, Tennessee will likely find its way to postseason play. Having a few prominent name opponents and victories against the top half of the conference should quickly boost them into a good spot. Coach Barnes is likely hoping to find an over 20 win season this year but realizes the battle.

Projected Finish: 5th in SEC

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of 32 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Exit

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