Insider Mailing: Tournament Time Edition

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    We answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

    “Why has Pons’ minutes been cut so much? Not much of an offense contributor but decent rebounder and defender.” – @tjvol49

    Nathanael: Barnes was asked about that on Monday, and he gave a very non-committal answer. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why. Maybe he’s lost some confidence (that’s been pretty evident on the offensive end) and it’s affecting his overall play. Honestly, I like what he brings to the table defensively, but you can almost just not guard him when he’s on offense. He isn’t shooting the ball when he has opportunities, and he isn’t driving to the basket much either. That’s why I think it’s a confidence/psyche issue.

    Ben: Because he hasn’t been all that effective on either end of the floor this season. Pons is a very capable defender, rebounder and can block shots. But this season, he has struggled to keep his man in front of him. I think it’s because he is too stiff and is over-thinking at times. At this point, I would rather have Jalen Johnson in the game. I’m still high on Pons moving forward into next season however.

    “I saw where Grant is projected as a 23rd pick. I feel as if he’s the type of young man to stay and finish what he’s helped build. But is late first round enough to lure him away, and is it worth it? Could another year put him in the lottery?” – Kenny

    Nathanael: This is the biggest question I have about UT’s upcoming offseason. I just don’t really buy that Grant Williams is a legit first-round pick right now. He’s too much of a tweener size-wise to do what he does right now at the NBA level. He really needs to show off that three-point shot and mid-range game more than he has, and I just don’t think he’s done it enough to make him a legit first-round pick. He’s not going to be able to muscle his way into the paint and draw the types of fouls he does in the college game when he gets to the NBA. I just think he’s more of a second-round pick right now, and I think coming back for his senior year would be good for him. Maybe I’m wrong and don’t know the NBA game well enough, but that’s just my feel.

    Ben: I agree with you, Kenny. Grant Williams is the type of kid who would want to come back to school, and ultimately I think he does. Turning down a potential first round pick considering I don’t believe he’ll ever be a lottery pick is asking a lot, though. How much more can Williams improve his draft stock? I don’t think it’s by much because he doesn’t possess the insane athleticism, potential, and youthfulness that the NBA teams love. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

    “NCAA national championship game 4th quarter 2 minutes left to go down by 5 which duo do you want Schofield/Williams or Lofton/Chisim?” – @htcook1999

    Nathanael: It’s hard for me to not side with any pairing that has Lofton when it comes to needing a clutch shot or two. My formative Tennessee basketball years were during the Buzz Peterson era, and Lofton was my favorite Vol in middle/high school. So I admit I’m a little biased here, but Lofton was legitimately one of the greatest Vols and shooters to ever play. I’m picking Lofton/Chism just because of him.

    Ben: Give me Chris Lofton and Wayne Chism. I’m mainly picking that duo because of Lofton, as he is the most clutch player in Tennessee basketball history. If Lofton is taking the final shot, I expect it to go in every single time.

    “When they’re both rocking, is Neyland or Thompson Boling a better advantage to the Vols?” – Jeremy

    Nathanael: As much as I like what TBA is like when it’s packed and rocking, it’s still Neyland Stadium. I’ll remind you of what Oklahoma players have said about that 2015 game where they could literally feel the noise on their skin it was so loud. Neyland is a whole different animal when the Vols are good.

    Ben: This is a cop-out answer, but I believe Thompson-Boling is as equal an advantage for the basketball team as Neyland Stadium is to the football team. But for different reasons. Neyland gets loud because of how many people. Thompson-Boling has the unique advantage of fitting in 21,000 people into an arena. There have been several games in TBA the past two seasons in which it has been hard to think because of how loud it was.

    “Whats your prediction for starters on the defensive line?” – @streets_weeper

    Nathanael: Well, that depends on if Aubrey Solomon gets his waiver approved by the NCAA for his immediate eligibility. If he does, I think he ends up as a starter for the Vols along the line. I think Savion Williams will come in this summer and fall and grab another one, and I think Emmit Gooden is another likely starter. I wouldn’t put it past John Mincey to grab a starting spot, though.

    Ben: Assuming Aubrey Solomon is granted immediate eligibility, Solomon, Emmit Gooden, and Savion Williams will be the starters. In that situation, you don’t necessarily have a traditional defensive end in the game, but because of depth issues, I think Tennessee simply has to put its three best D-linemen on the field. If Solomon can’t play, I think John Mincey or Matthew Butler will start.

    “Which SEC game this season do you see Tennessee possibility win that they probably won’t be favored in? – @GSix1987

    Nathanael: That’s tough, because at this moment I don’t have a great feel for how Vegas is going to project Tennessee for next season. They could definitely be underdogs at home to Mississippi State and South Carolina, and they could be underdogs on the road against Missouri, too. Right now, I’m going to assume that the Gamecocks will be slight favorites in that game and pick that one, but I also wouldn’t discount the Vols getting a surprising victory in The Swamp. Of course, I’m not going to pick that to happen, but it just wouldn’t surprise me.

    Ben: I don’t know which game I’d roll with because I don’t know which games Tennessee will be an underdog in. I would say that the Vols will be underdogs to Mississippi State or South Carolina, but those games are at home. But if Tennessee is home underdogs in those two games, the Bulldogs and the Gamecocks are the teams I’m circling for the Vols to upset.