The team that was projected to finish second-to-last in the SEC just won a regular season co-championship on Saturday. And that team received even more good news on Tuesday when the SEC coaches handed out their yearly awards and honors.
Tennessee swept the Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, and Sixth Man of the Year awards from the SEC coaches, and they also had two players named to the coaches All-Conference team.
In his third year with the Vols, head coach Rick Barnes has taken the Volunteers to an elite level. After winning just 15 and 16 games in his first two seasons respectively, Barnes has guided his team to a 23-7 record an a co-SEC title. Despite the youth of the Vols’ roster, they were still able to navigate one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Tennessee beat four Power Five opponents away from Knoxville, including No. 10 Purdue in the Battle 4 Atlantis. They also were undefeated against rivals Kentucky, Florida, and Vanderbilt, notching the first sweep of Kentucky since the 1998-99 season.
This marks just the ninth time a Tennessee coach has been given the conference coach of the year award. Barnes has now received six different conference coach of the year honors across three different conferences. The Vols are bound for the NCAA tournament, where he will become just the 13th coach to ever lead four different teams to the Big Dance.
Sophomore forward Grant Williams was named the SEC Player of the Year after leading the team in scoring during league play with 16.1 points per game. Williams scored in double figures in 24 of the 30 games he played this season. He was a force in the paint all season long, and he was a big reason Tennessee was able to shatter expectations this season.
Including Williams, nine different Vols have combined to win 12 SEC player of the year awards. He joins Hall of Famer Bernard King as the only other Vol underclassman to earn the honor.
Lamonte Turner was a reliable player off the bench all season long and it appears the league took notice. The sophomore guard was named the SEC Co-Sixth Man of the year, sharing the award with Missouri’s Jontay Porter. Turner has not started a game this season, but he has come off the bench to score 15 or more points eight different times. He is the team’s third-leading scorer both overall (10.6 ppg) and in SEC play (11.4 ppg), and he has held or shared the team lead in scoring eight times this season.
Turner has consistently come off the bench and sparked the Vols’ offense. He is a pure shooter and great defender, helping the Vols on both ends of the floor. He nailed the go-ahead three in Lexington to help the team secure a win against Kentucky, and he’s hit plenty of other clutch threes all season. He has also scored 25 points in two different SEC games this year.
Rounding out the awards were two members of the Big Orange named to All-SEC teams. Williams was named to the first-team All-SEC , and junior forward Admiral Schofield was named as a second-team All-SEC performer. Schofield led the team in minutes per game (30.4), and rebounding (6.7) despite only measuring in at 6-foot-5. He was also second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game. He was named the conference player of the week the final two weeks of the season and scored 25, 24 and 23 points in the final three games of the year.
The Volunteers will now patiently await a Friday match-up with the winner of LSU and Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament after receiving a double bye. They will look to continue the success they have experienced in the regular season throughout the postseason.