Tennessee Basketball: Should We Be Worried About Jeronne Maymon's Absence?

Mark AlewineContributor INovember 19, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - JANUARY 14: Jeronne Maymon #34 and Trae Golden #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrate during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Thompson-Boling Arena on January 14, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 65-62. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

By the time Jeronne Maymon returns to Tennessee’s lineup, he’ll be at legendary status. Rumors will spread across campus that Maymon is now 11 feet tall, drains full court shots, and will convince Jon Gruden to come to Knoxville.

(Random conversation on campus)

“Yo dude, I heard Maymon is off doing some Bruce Wayne training in the Himalayans somewhere. He’s gonna go Dark Knight on Patric Young this year.”

“No way. I heard Calipari sent some guy with a flat-top fade to sabotage his rehab.”

“You’re both wrong. The Chancellor sent him to USC to mess with Kiffin all season. Something about deflating footballs...”

Such is the case when a team with promise is so obviously missing its senior leader. After a 17-point blowout by Oklahoma State and 19 offensive rebounds allowed in their last two games, there’s a Maymon-shaped void in the Vols' front court, and it’s hanging over Tennessee’s season. And there’s no definitive timetable on his return. And the Vols face Georgetown, Virginia, and Wichita State in three of their next four games.

If the most recent reports are correct, Maymon could be back by the time the team heads to UVA December fifth. But Cuonzo Martin and the rest of the coaching staff have kept his status in almost complete secrecy (which only increases his legendary status), and further add to speculation that his injury is more serious than what’s been reported.

Martin showed he could adapt to Maymon’s absence by making some major lineup changes in the win over UMass on Sunday, the most significant being increased minutes for redshirt freshman Quinton Chievous. But is a tweak in the rotation going to be enough against a team like Georgetown, whose starting five features four players 6’8” or taller? The team’s 2011 numbers show at least a glimmer of hope.

Compared to last season, the Vols are just slightly behind their 2011 averages in total rebounds and offensive rebounds through the first four games. Considering the markedly improved play from Josh Richardson, nearly 50 percent shooting from the perimeter by Skylar McBee and Jordan McRae and increased scoring from Jarnell Stokes (despite being double teamed nearly every possession) the team might have just enough to maintain until Maymon’s return.