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As an experienced veteran, Josiah-Jordan James is one of the most critical players on the Tennessee Basketball team. However, during Tuesday night’s game against Vanderbilt, James suffered an injury just minutes into the contest and did not return to the game.
According to Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes, though, it seems as though James’ status could go in either direction for the Vols’ next game.
During his Friday press conference, Barnes went into more detail about when they expect James back.
“He’s working his way back,” Barnes said. “It will really be a game-time decision. But, again, we’re trying to work his way back, that’s what he’s trying to do.”
Barnes also went into more detail, clarifying that while it is an injury to the head, the junior guard is not in concussion protocol.
“He just got hit,” Barnes said. “He had a little cut above his eye, on the forehead.”
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Tennessee’s starting lineup at home against LSU on Saturday will be fascinating with the questionable status of James. Not to mention, after replacing sixth-year senior John Fulkerson with Uros Plavsic in the starting lineup against Vanderbilt, Barnes said on Friday that Plavsic will start against LSU. As for the rest of the starting lineup, though, that is less set in stone.
“I think it could change,” Barnes said about the starting five on Friday. “I have told you guys every year since I have been here, I don’t really care who starts the game. I am more interested in who we have to have to finish it. I think the first four minutes of the game are important. I think the most important part of the game is the three minutes coming out of halftime. We will go in and come up with a starting lineup based on what we see with consistency every day in practice.”
That mindset from Barnes, highlighting the difference between the starting five against the closing five, can be seen as recently as the Vanderbilt game. During the Vols’ game in Nashville on Tuesday, Kennedy Chandler was the Vols’ starting point guard with Zakai Zeigler on the bench. However, in the final 60 seconds when Tennessee needed defensive stops and Zeigler was playing well, Barnes kept Chandler on the bench to close in favor of Zeigler.
Just in that example alone, it’s easy to tell that Barnes doesn’t just go with his best five players to start and finish the game. Instead, especially in the close, matchups and situational basketball are always going to be taken into consideration for the group that is on the floor.
No. 24 Tennessee (12-5, 3-3 SEC) will host No. 13 LSU (15-3, 3-3 SEC) this Saturday evening in Knoxville at 6:00 p.m. ET.