A lot of people questioned what Bruce Pearl was doing when he shook up his starting lineup in the middle of the NCAA tournament.
Why would a team with 30 wins need a change, especially at the all important point guard position?
It's no secret to anyone that follows Tennessee basketball that the usual contributors at the point guard position— well, they weren't really contributing.
Ever since Jordan Howell sang "Let's Get It On" on his designated senior night, he has been doing anything but that, scoring a total of 6 points in 10 games. He also has a very meager average of 1.1 assists per game. His shooting percentage during that stretch is an embarrasing 4.8%, hitting 1-of-21 shots.
Ramar Smith has been a little better, averaging 3.0 assists per game to 2.2 turnovers during that same stretch. However, Bruce Pearl has not been too impressed with his intensity
Another obvious problem during that stretch was that J.P. Prince was not getting enough quality minutes.
Prince makes so many things happen on the court. His athleticism makes it easy for him to open up his teammates for shots and he always seems to me making plays around the rim.
Pearl knew he had to find a way to get Prince more minutes. However the first mistake he made was to split those minutes with Jordan Howell. Thought this might have been a calculated 'mistake' to give Ramar Smith a little extra motivation, it still seems like the wrong choice.
When you look at the results of Pearl's decision, it is very easy to criticize his decision. He was the first to do it. But the only criticism he deserves is the one he gave himself, and that was leaving Prince in during the last 2 minutes.
Pearl should have put the more experience point guard, Ramar Smith, in for that situation.
Prince made two almost costly turnovers during that last minute, giving him a total of 6. However, those quick to criticize Prince, should look also to Tyler Smith, who ended up with 7 turnovers.
Prince ended up with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Not a bad game for someone starting his first game at point guard against the #10 ranked team in the country. A team known for its offensive and defensive discipline.
The combination of J.P. Prince and Ramar Smith should prove to be a very formidable one this Thursday when the Vols take on the up-tempo, pressing style of the Louisville Cardinals. A style that is very familiar to them.
Another key player to look out for in that matchup is Brian Williams. He didn't get a lot of playing time in the first two games, but that's probably because the teams they were playing had smaller quicker centers that made life difficult for him on defense.
In 11 short minutes in the second half, he put up 3 points and pulled down 4 rebounds. Look for all of those numbers to increase when the Vols have to play against David Padgett and Derrick Caracter.