Advertise with usContact UsRTI Team

Barnes “Frustrated” with Inconsistencies this Season

This article is written by guest writer Spencer Morrell

Rick Barnes is frustrated. That much was evident in his Monday press conference in Knoxville.

“If we had this group from the very beginning and no injuries would have happened, we’d be way ahead; but that’s not the way it played out this year,” Barnes said Monday. “Santi’s (Vescovi) been here, Josiah (Jordan-James) has been in-and-out. We haven’t had any consistency there, so I know that has a little bit to do with it; even though you get frustrated with it, you don’t want to admit it.”

Barnes is, of course, referring to the revolving door that has been the Vols’ lineup this year when it comes to available players.

Before the season began, Barnes believed that his young team would have veteran point guard Lamonte Turner to lean on throughout the season. Barnes also believed that he would have all seven feet of transfer forward Uros Plavsic immediately eligible to begin the year and bolster his team’s depth at the post position. However, as Barnes said, “that’s not the way it played out.”

Plavsic was denied immediate eligibility and missed the first half of the season as he and UT went through a lengthy appeals process. Turner played only 11 games before having to forgo the rest of the season due to a worsening shoulder issue that he had been dealing with for nearly two years. Barnes’ squad was left undermanned and without a strong senior leader outside of Jordan Bowden.

Enter Santiago Vescovi, an 18-year-old freshman mid-year enrollee who filled Turner’s position at starting point guard after being on campus for less than a week in January. The decision to start Vescovi immediately after he only practiced with the team for a week showed both Barnes’ desperation and Vescovi’s skill and incredible potential at the position.

Then only three games after Vescovi had made his first appearance in an orange jersey, Plavsic was suddenly given eligibility by the NCAA. This was the fifth roster change of the year for the Vols including forward Zach Kent leaving the team earlier in the season. Plavsic was eased into the lineup and saw only limited minutes his first few games. However, as Plavsic was settling into his role, five-star freshman Josiah-Jordan James was forced out of the rotation due to a nagging groin injury that started in the preseason. James would miss a four-game stretch due to this injury. Plavsic and junior guard Jalen Johnson were forced into starting roles in his stead.

This rotating cast of characters has pushed Barnes to find new lineups and pushed players to fill multiple roles throughout the season. It has been frustrating for Barnes to manage, frustrating for the players to deal with, and frustrating for the fans to watch.

Barnes understands that, and he’s trying to help his team the best he can.

“When I go see the team today and we watch tape, I’m not going to say that to them. I know it, we all know it,” Barnes said when addressing the frustration he and the players have been feeling. “I’ve been doing it too long not to know that. We still expect them to figure this out right now.

“Is it frustrating? I think our guys would probably be frustrated with it too, because they’ve made good effort to put themselves in good positions.”

Barnes knows his team puts forth an admirable effort each game. His players hustle, and they play hard. The team’s ranking in the top 25 in nearly every defensive statistic reflects the effort they exert on the court. Their defense is what has kept them in games this season when their offense has floundered, which it has done quite frequently. Tennessee could have won many more games this season if their offense could have performed in crunch time, but as Barnes put it, “that’s not the way it played out.”

And that’s frustrating.

“The fact that we haven’t finished some of these games that we should have is frustrating,” Barnes explained. “The one thing I’ll give these guys is that they have continued to work hard, they continue to play hard. Do we have some guys that need to play harder? Absolutely.”

Barnes recognizes that his team is playing hard and working hard in practice, but they haven’t been able to execute in late-game situations on offense. Playing hard hasn’t been enough to get it done for this Tennessee team, which is frustrating for a coach who wants to see his players’ effort rewarded.

Tennessee’s fifth-year head coach would like to think that at this point in the season, his players could execute some semblance of offense for consistent stretches in games, but that hasn’t been the case on numerous occasions this year.

Barnes wants his team to play hard, but they also need to play smart. Turnovers have plagued Tennessee more than anything this season, which is shocking for a Barnes-coached squad. It hasn’t been unusual for these Vols to turn it over upwards of 15 times in a game (something they’ve done 11 times this season). Some of the Vols’ turnovers have come at critical junctures in close games, too. These turnovers have let teams back in games that Tennessee controlled. These turnovers have stifled Tennessee’s already anemic offense and caused the team to go scoreless for minutes at a time. That’s obviously frustrating for Barnes, and it can be downright painful to watch at times. It has certainly inhibited this team’s ability to finish games.

Tennessee has four games left on its schedule before the SEC Tournament in March, and UT’s season has been filled with more close losses against quality teams than it has wins.

“Again, I can sit here and go through the whole year and tell you it’s pretty amazing that we’ve been able to put ourselves in some of these games from the beginning,” Barnes said when talking about how his revolving roster has been able to compete with teams this year. “When you’re there and when you can’t finish it, yeah it’s tough and frustrating.”

Clearly, Rick Barnes is frustrated, he thinks his players are frustrated, and he knows the fans are frustrated. Barnes would have liked to have had a consistent roster where players knew their roles, but “that’s not the way it played out” for this team.

Barnes would have liked if his team could have won in some of the many close games they have been in, but for the most part “that’s not the way it played out.”

The veteran coach knows his team has squandered opportunities, and he knows that they had a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament, but “that’s not the way it played out” for Tennessee this year.

And yes, as Rick Barnes said many times on Monday, that’s frustrating.

Similar Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweet Us