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Column: Jordan Bone is True MVP of Vols’ Basketball Team

Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

When national analysts talk about Tennessee’s men’s basketball team, most of the focus falls on junior forward Grant Williams and senior forward Admiral Schofield. And that’s understandable. The Vols’ dynamic duo of Peanut Butter and Jelly are a force that not many teams can contend with. Those two have combined to score an average of 36.3 points and are averaging a combined 14 rebounds per game.

But for all the attention those two receive (and rightfully so), the Vols’ true MVP isn’t either one of them.

If you’re looking for the main reason Tennessee has improved from last year and is one of the best teams in college basketball this season, look no further than point guard Jordan Bone.

Tennessee’s offense this season has been the most efficient it’s been in years, and that’s thanks in large part to their junior floor general. Bone has shown vast improvement from his sophomore year last season, and it’s showing up all over the court this season.

Bone is on pace to smash his career-highs in points per game (13.2), assists per game (6.4), and field goal percentage (43.9 percent). His play on both offense and defense has been a big reason the Vols have shown as much improvement as they have this season. He’s playing efficiently and effectively, and he’s helping set up Tennessee’s offense for success.

According to Tom Satkowiak, Tennessee’s Sports Information Director for men’s basketball, Jordan Bone has the best assist/turnover ratio in SEC play this season. And the next-closest isn’t even close.

On the season as a whole, Bone has an assist/turnover ratio of 3.7. That’s up from his ratio of 2.8 last season, and among qualifying point guards, only Duke’s Tre Jones (5.7) has a better ratio in college basketball this season.

This season, Jordan Bone has totaled double-digit assist totals in a game three times. Coming into this year, his career-high in assists in a game was eight. He’s eclipsed that previous career-high four different times this season. He’s also scored in double figures in all but four of the Vols’ 17 games this season.

Right now, Bone’s average of 6.4 assists per game would be good for the fourth-best average in a season in Tennessee’s program history. If you stretch out that average just through Tennessee’s regular season games and don’t even look at potential SEC Tournament or NCAA Tournament games, Bone would total around 197 assists in 31 games this season. That total would be the third-most in a single season in UT history.

In games this season where Bone has totaled eight or more assists, Tennessee is scoring an average of 87.8 points per game.

But numbers don’t even tell the whole story with Bone. Watching him play, you can see more confidence from him in himself and his abilities. He doesn’t just settle for jumpers anymore; Bone is driving to the basket and is taking smarter shots all over the floor. His field goal attempts per game are up from 6.7 a game last season to 11.1 per contest this year. And his field goal percentage is up almost a whole five percentage points from last season.

Bone’s ability to cut to the basket and his speed in transition plays make him a nightmare to guard against for most opposing guards. He can travel down the court in a blink of an eye, and he has a smooth finish at the rim once he gets there.

Not only that, but Bone isn’t shying away from contact this season either.

In his first two years at Tennessee, Bone was a little more timid on offense. This season, he’s more physical and doesn’t let contact affect him nearly as much. He’s averaging nearly double the amount of free throw attempts per game this year as he was last season. In 35 games last season, Bone shot 56 free throws. In just 17 games this season, Bone has already attempted 51 free throws.

Bone’s success as Tennessee’s point guard has helped everyone on UT’s roster have better seasons thus far. Tennessee’s ball movement on offense is unparalleled in college basketball, and that starts with what Bone does at the point. He’s been one of the most efficient guards in all of college basketball, and he’s the main reason Tennessee has enjoyed as much success as they have this season.

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