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10 thoughts about the Tennessee Memphis game
- Updated: January 3, 2013
Welcome to the first official post here on aVy’ about Tennessee basketball – just in time for Friday’s Tennessee Memphis game. No big deal. Just ten quick thoughts about the teams and the contest. Only there’s a catch – since this is a Vol blog, nine of the thoughts pertain to Tennessee. Memphis? They get one.
Let’s start with Memphis.
Memphis is soft because their coach is chicken shit
There. I said it. Look, I’ve not seen Memphis play one single time this year, but I know those clowns are soft. Because every team takes on the personality of their coach. Just look at Cuonzo Martin’s hardscrabble Vols. And I’m sorry, y’all, but Memphis coach Josh Pastner is complete and total chicken shit. And dudes who are chicken shit are soft. Thus, the Tigers are soft, too, just like their chicken-shit coach.
By now I’m sure you’ve heard that coach Patsy has refused to play the Vols moving forward, which means Friday’s Tennessee Memphis game will be the last one for the foreseeable future. The reason? Coach Patsy doesn’t wanna give Tennessee the chance to advertise their basketball program to the recruiting Mecca that is Memphis.
I can promise you this. If the shoe were on the other foot, and we lived in a basketball rich recruiting zone, Coach Martin would INSIST that we play our cross-state rivals each and every year. If for no other reason than because it’d be a great chance to show our hometown fans what our program is all about.
Coach Patsy can say all he wants about how the Tennessee Memphis game isn’t a rivalry game, and that taking UT off the schedule gives him greater flexibility to schedule other “national” opponents (that’s how he categorizes the Vols). But, in the end, all it is is a bunch of chicken shit.
Okay. Enough of that. Now, nine thoughts about the Vols.
They can be tough to watch, but…
I’ve seen the Vols in action half a dozen times or so this year, and yeah, I’ll be the first to admit that they can be tough to watch. Let’s face it. Offense is a factor. BUT…the thing I love about this team? The guys are never short on effort. And defenses don’t ever get “cold,” and the Vols seem to understand that. Because it’s the one thing they can and do control each and every game. Which is exactly why UT’s holding opponents to a mere 56 points per game, which makes the Vols the 15th hardest team to score against in the nation.
Even without Maymon…
Everyone knew that without Jeronne Maymon, this team was gonna struggle to find an identity. It’s not just the 12 points and 8 boards he’s pretty much guaranteed to deliver every night. It’s also his leadership. His defense. And don’t forget this: you take away an inside force like that, and suddenly you can’t go inside out like you used to. Ask Skylar how much his jumper misses Maymon.
That’s why I’m so optimistic about this team, though. Because even without Jeronne, and despite the fact we’re still trying to find that Maymon-less identity, we’re still 8-3 with a couple of quality wins under our belt already. And on Friday, we have a great chance to beat another good (albeit chicken shit) team. And I don’t know about you, but if someone had told me we could be 9-3 heading into conference play without Maymon? I would have signed off on that in two-point-two seconds.
In short, we’ve found a way to get it done, ugly or not. And when you’re winning without your best player, and without your best game? That usually means good things are to come. Once this team finds its identity, the Vols could become very dangerous. Especially with the way they D-up.
We need more from Jarnell
The first time I ever saw Jarnell Stokes play, two things came to mind. First, it was easy to see the kid had a ton of potential. Second, it was also easy to see that he needed a lot of polish. Little things, like improving his footwork in the paint. Establishing a better low post game. Running the court better (and more smoothly). And learning how to play with his back to the basket. Fast forward a year, and Jarnell has made progress on many of those fronts, but he still has a lot of work to do. If we’re gonna beat teams like Memphis and make a good run in the SEC regular season (especially without Maymon), we need for number 5 to become a dominant force in the paint. And so far, he’s just not.
I heart Makanjoula
Remember that bit about players taking on the personality of their coaches? I can’t think of a better example on this year’s team (aside from Maymon) than Yemi Makanjoula. That dude gives everything he’s got for every single second of the ten minutes he plays per game. And he’s not afraid to bang with the big bodies inside. Regardless of his productivity, which hasn’t exactly been record setting, that’s something the Vols sorely need, especially without Maymon. It’s not like the kid has the prettiest game in the world, but I flat-out love to watch Makanjoula play.
Trae Golden is crucial
If we’re gonna beat Memphis, Trae Golden has to have a good game. He’s struggled from behind the arc this season (what Vol hasn’t?), but when Golden’s hitting his runner, he’s more than just our leading scorer. He’s a threat to score on any possession. Everyone knows that good guard play is critical for any team that wants to make any noise on any level. And Trae has given us just that. But we need for him to give it to us a bit more consistently. Which he will.
Last year Skylar hit 39% of his threes compared to just 30% so far this year. He’s not a guy who can create his own shot off the dribble. He needs to be spotted up for a catch-and-shoot three, which is exactly why he misses Jeronne more than any other player. There’s no high-low game without Maymon. No one to draw in the D, then kick it out. And unless Stokes can pick up the slack a little better in the low post, look for Skylar’s shooting woes to continue. But that still won’t stop him from playing with 100% effort at all times on both ends of the floor. He does that every single night. And he’s still capable of changing a game if he suddenly gets hot.
Derek Reese showed some range coming off the bench against Xavier, going 2-6 from three-point land. Reasonably impressive when you consider he’s a freshman. Doubly so when you consider he’s fresh off shoulder surgery. Sophomore Brandon Lopez also had a good game giving the Vols a much-needed spark at the point guard position. (Golden was scoreless when Lopez relieved him.) His ability to penetrate was a key reason why the Vols were able to grab the second-half momentum that took them to victory. And given that Xavier’s been to four of the past five Sweet 16s, it was a pretty good victory at that. It’ll be interesting to see if either of these guys has an impact against Memphis.
Josh Richardson and Jordan McRae
I love Josh Richardson’s game. He’s probably our best defender on the perimeter, and he shows flashes of brilliance on offense, particularly in transition. At 6-6 and 188, he’s a long, lean, athletic guy who has tremendous upside. If the Vols can ever get it going on offense, it’ll probably be because Richardson has come into his own.
And speaking of coming into his own, that’s what Jordan McRae continues to do. You gotta love a guy who’s good enough to play starter’s minutes, but humble enough to come off the bench (which he usually does). Yes, it’d be great if he could pick up the three-point shooting a bit, but, again, that’s a team-wide issue that has a lot to do with Maymon’s absence. Besides, McRae is about the only Vol not named Trae Golden who’s money from the line at 85%. (Skylar’s a great free throw shooter, but he never gets to the line…)
I have a feeling both of these guys are gonna have great games against Memphis. And I’m gonna go ahead and go on the record in predicting that Richardson goes for a career high in scoring tomorrow night. (That was a lotta “go”s in one sentence.)
I’m disappointed that this 8-year home-and-home series is coming to an end. The two met in last year’s Maui Invitational, which means they’ve already played eight times since the series began. Both schools have won four apiece which makes Friday’s Tennessee Memphis game the rubber match.
And I’m taking the Vols in a tight one. 58-54.