So this is supposed to be a “Stock Up, Stock Down” piece, but if you’ve watched Tennessee at all this season, you know the “stock down” list is lengthy and depressing.
But fear not, Vol fans! Here are three glimmers of hope that may keep Tennessee in the SEC title hunt and keep “Fire Cuonzo Martin” off the Rock on campus.
He’s simply been the best scoring option for Tennessee. He’s averaged 17.2 points over his last five games, he almost single-handedly led the comeback against Memphis, and he’s the only Vol converting anything from beyond the arc.
Jordan McRae earned a spot in the starting lineup against Ole Miss, and it seems it will be his position to lose for the rest of the season.
Josh Richardson has stepped up to become Tennessee’s best all-around player. A consistent stat-sheet filler, he was the other half in the Memphis comeback and was a botched dunk away from blowing the doors off Thompson-Boling Arena late in the second half of that game.
As the lone player shooting more than 50 percent from the field, Richardson has clearly been given the green light by Cuonzo Martin to take more shots.
The result has been three straight double-digit-scoring games before finishing with nine points against Ole Miss.
This is more speculation than substance, but Derek Reese has surprisingly shown the most potential of Martin’s three recruits this season. In just two games, he’s produced 14 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists, and he’s also shown the confidence to take the open shots from range and drive to the basket.
Martin clearly believes in him as a game-changer, which he showed by giving Reese a combined 53 minutes in his only two appearances with the Vols.
It may not be enough to turn the season around, but some strong games by the true freshman down the stretch would go a long way to raising optimism for next season.