Could Kyle Alexander be the Vols’ Breakout Star?

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    Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

    For a player who barely averages 20 minutes a game, Tennessee’s Kyle Alexander sure does draw a lot of attention.

    We wrote a month ago that Alexander could be the MVP of this year’s team because of his defensive prowess and efficient offensive ability. Then an ESPN analyst said not even a week later that Alexander could be a first round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Now another analyst for another site believes Alexander has what it takes to be a breakout star in the NCAA Tournament.

    Dan Greene of Sports Illustrated put together a list of the “darkhorse dozen” players on NCAA Tournament teams who are “relatively less-heralded players on contending teams who could make themselves known in pivotal moments come tourney time.”

    And according to Greene, Alexander is the likeliest candidate on Tennessee’s team.

    “Guess who was the most efficient offensive player in SEC play? Well, you probably wouldn’t have guessed Alexander had the question not been in this blurb,” Greene writes. “A strong rebounder on both ends, talented shot-blocker, and a 68.8% shooter from the field, Alexander has a variety of ways to make an impact.”

    During the SEC Tournament, Alexander played some very efficient basketball and had some of his best performances of the season. Alexander averaged 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, two blocks, and shot 60 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line. All of those numbers (except for his overall field goal percentage) were higher than his season average heading into the tournament.

    And he did all that while only averaging 22 minutes per game in the tournament.

    Alexander has been arguably the Vols’ best defender all season. And that remained true in the SEC Tournament as well. On the season, Alexander has 55 blocks in 673 minutes played, which means he’s averaging a block about every 12 minutes of game time.

    According to SportsReference.com, Alexander has a total win share this season of 3.2. That metric measures “an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense.” His overall plus/minus score of 11.8 according to SportsReference is the 7th-best in all of college basketball this season.

    The Vols have several players who contribute more offensively overall and play more minutes per game than Kyle Alexander. But few players in the country play a more efficient game on both ends of the court than Alexander. And his play could be a big factor in whether or not the Vols win or lose in the NCAA Tournament.