Tennessee (0-0) vs UNC Asheville (0-0)
Friday, Nov. 13, 7:00 p.m. ET
Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) • Knoxville, TN
TV: SEC Network+/WatchESPN.com
Probable UNC Asheville Starters
G-Kevin Vannatta, 6-2, 180, SO (7.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
G-Ahmad Thomas, 6-3, 205, SO (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
G-Dylan Smith, 6-5, 170, FR
F-Dwayne Sutton, 6-5, 195, FR
F-Will Weeks, 6-6, 220, RS JR (4.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Probable Tennessee Starters
G-Kevin Punter, 6-4, 180, SR (10.3 ppg, .352 3FG%)
G-Robert Hubbs III, 6-4, 207, JR (7.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
G-Devon Baulkman 6-4, 200, SR (4.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
F-Armani Moore, 6-5, 215, SR (10.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
F-Kyle Alexander, 6-9, 215, FR
Setting the Table
There have been glimpses of practice and an exhibition, but the Rick Barnes era truly begins on Friday evening in Thompson-Boling Arena as the Vols welcome UNC Asheville in a series that UT has owned 9-0 historically against its neighbors from about 120 miles to the west. Both teams begin their season looking for some answers after losing their top player and each side will run with smaller lineups that will try to out-hustle the other, get up and down the floor and hit some 3-pointers. UNC Asheville has hovered around .500 the past few years and lost a key player to transfer in Andrew Rowsey (Marquette) – significantly hurting their chances in the Big South.
But Tennessee enters a season with many unknowns as well and Friday night will be just the first chapter in the story of trying to figure some of those out. UT feels pretty good about its chances against the Bulldogs in this opener, but with a new coach, some new faces and new roles all over the team, few things can be taken for granted at this point.
“I don’t feel any differently now than I’ve felt the last 10-12 years as a head coach. I know it’s our first game coming up here and I don’t take any of them for granted. I just know we still have a lot of teaching and work to do with these guys.”
– Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes
3 keys for the Vols
1. Get easy points in transition: There isn’t a ton of size on either roster, so these teams will be looking to get out and run in this one. The team that does that better will have the upper-hand in this one. Look for the likes of Kevin Punter, Armani Moore, Devon Baulkman and Robert Hubbs III to attempt to take the ball coast-to-coast as much as possible and score as quickly as they can for the Vols as they feel their way into their new offense and defense.
2. Hit 35%+ from 3-point range: The Vols haven’t made it a huge secret that they’re going to have to launch a lot of shots from behind the arc this year. There certainly could be some games where they live and die by it. UT shot just over 33% from 3-point range last season, so upping that average just a bit will go a long way in helping the Vols win their season opener after dropping it the past two years.
3. Figure out the rotation: The rotation will be a work in progress this season in all likelihood, but, especially if the Vols can get a lead in the second half, this could be a great opportunity to see who all be counted on off the bench. It’d be especially nice to get some quality minutes for Shembari Phillips, Kyle Alexander and Admiral Schofield, but the Vols need to make sure they take care of business before going too crazy on emptying the bench.
KenPom.com: Tennessee 78-64
Daniel: Tennessee 81-70