If you’re searching for the weakest link in Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin’s chain, look no further than the shooting stats for the Vols’ guards in the team’s three final games:
- March 9 versus Ole Miss: 14 of 49 from the field.
- March 13 versus Savannah State: 13 of 42 from the field.
- March 19 versus MTSU: 9 of 36 from the field and 1 of 13 from beyond the arc.
In the team’s three postseason appearances, Tennessee’s backcourt shot 28 percent from the field and managed just nine field goals in the season ending loss to MTSU.
This inconsistency at guard has plagued the team all year. Senior Cameron Tatum, who appeared in every game this season, failed to record a basket five times in conference play. Junior Skyler McBee was held scoreless three times after netting double digit points in the previous game, and sophomore Jordan McRae finished the season shooting just four of 27 in their final four games.
The backcourt defense down the stretch, however, may be what is most troubling to Coach Martin. Not since the overtime win at LSU in February have the Vols held an opponent’s starting backcourt to single digit scoring. Most recently, MTSU point guard Bruce Massey, who averaged just 5.5 PPG coming into the matchup in Knoxville, walked away with 20 points, ten rebounds, and four assists against primary defender Trae Golden. Massey added eight points in the Blue Raiders 15-0 run to end the game, including the go-ahead lay-up with 1:29 remaining.
Martin should find backcourt help next season from redshirt freshman Quinton Chievous and newly signed, three star combo guard Armani Moore. But, to make room for this incoming talent, the coach put his incumbent players on notice.
“We don’t begin with starters in place; we have guys who started coming back, we have new guys coming in, and every position is available.”