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Tennessee Altering Starting Lineup Ahead Of Matchup With Dangerous Mid Major

SEC Basketball
Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes was upset talking to the media after Colorado’s upset win over the Vols in Nashville Sunday.

It had been less than half-an-hour since the game ended but the eighth year Tennessee head coach had already decided one adjustment moving forward to get his team back on the right path.

“Zakai was wild,” Barnes said. “Tonight, he was out of control. He was totally out of control to the point where I’ve already told him ‘you’re not starting’ because him starting the game hasn’t worked very well in terms of the way we want to get started. So we’ll have to make a decision on how we want to go that way.”

Zeigler told Barnes in the offseason that he wanted to continue coming off the bench as he did last season with freshman phenom Kennedy Chandler starting at point guard.

Due to the lack of point guard options and Josiah-Jordan James preseason injury, Barnes decided to roll with one of his best players in the starting lineup. However, the move has not worked well two games into the season.

Zeigler turned it over once before the first timeout in Tennessee’s season opening win over Tennessee Tech before turning it over twice in the first three minutes against Colorado.

The early game turnovers didn’t matter against the Golden Eagles but did lead to a slow, but not horrible, start against Colorado. Barnes is looking to mix things up hoping the Vols start quicker moving forward.

“We have to get better execution at the start of the game,” Barnes said. “We can’t start the game by throwing it out of bounds on the very first possession of the game.”

While Barnes emphasized the need for faster starts, guard play has been shaky in the season’s first two games and particularly against Colorado.

More From RTI: Tennessee Drops In AP Poll Following Colorado Loss

Both Zeigler and All-SEC shooting guard Santiago Vescovi are off to slow starts and struggled on the offensive end against the Buffs. The duo combined for six turnovers and made just six-of-25 shots.

“When he starts driving, he (Vescovi) and Z(akai) both are out of control,” Barnes said. “We don’t know what’s going on. Guys don’t know. It goes back, there’s going to be games where if they take shots within our offense they’re going to make shots. It’s when shots are rushed but when we come off screens knowing the shots that we have worked on for years but when he loses his confidence now he thinks that every time I get it I have to go create things for my teammates.”

As Tennessee prepares for Florida Gulf Coast, Barnes appears good on his word. Tyreke Key is Tennessee’s probable starting point guard according to UT game notes joining Santiago Vescovi, Julian Phillips, Josiah-Jordan James and Olivier Nkamhoua.

Uros Plavsic started the first two games of the season before rolling his ankle in the first half against Colorado.

While Tennessee isn’t facing a power five opponent Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena, Florida Gulf Coast is a strong mid major foe. The Eagles are 2-1 on the young season with an upset win over Southern Cal and a tight loss against San Diego.

FGCU ranks 208th in KenPom with junior guard Chase Johnston (18 PPG) and junior forward Zach Anderson (14.3 PPG) leading the way for the Eagles.

Tip-off from Thompson-Boling Arena is at 7 p.m. ET. Andy Brock and Steve Hammer are on the call for the SEC Network+ stream.

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