It is basketball time in Tennessee! Later this evening (7:00 p.m.) the Vols will open their 2019-2020 season with a game against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. While I looked at some aspects of the Bulldogs’ previous season and some information in an earlier article (which you can check out here), let’s focus on tonight’s matchup a little more in depth.
School: The University of North Carolina at Asheville
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Conference: Big South
Coach: Mike Morrell (2nd Season)
2018-2019 Record: 4-27 (2-14 Big South)
Notable Alumnus: Kenny George- at 7’7” George was the tallest player to ever participate in NCAA basketball.
He even suited up against the Vols during the 2007-2008 season andtallied 7pts, 13reb, and 4blks. That same night, Tennessee legend Chris Lofton became the U.T. all time leader in 3-point Field Goals in the team’s 11th game of the season.
What are we up against?
The Bulldogs are picked by many to finish in the bottom third of the Big South Conference for the second year straight. However, it is likely that Asheville is home to the Big South’s best incoming player; Redshirt Sophomore Lavar Batts, a transfer from North Carolina State.
The Bulldogs are very athletic, as well, and anything will likely be better compared to last years’ team. Of note, there is some hype surrounding former Bearden Bulldog Trent Stephney, and most previews I have read indicate that he will see minutes early on in the season.
As for us…
We all took the news of Uros Plavsic’s denied waiver pretty hard, and it is disappointing that we are going to be without a potentially major contributor, it is what it is and it is time to move on. Rick Barnes has shown during his time at Tennessee that he can get a lot out of a little, and that needs to be the case this season. After our 107-59 annihilation of Eastern New Mexico State to end the pre-season, I see a lot of good that can come from this team. With that being said, I don’t expect to find out anything about true competition until we play Washington on November 16.
I hope to see a lot of Josiah-Jordan James. Against ENMSU, he showed me that he can be a scorer, facilitator, and possession-securer in college. Look for him to have a good first official night in TBA. Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden will have to be solid all season, and I expect them to be. Those three guys in a backcourt may prove to be very fun to watch this season. Lastly, the bulk of responsibility down-low is on John Fulkerson. I hope he can shoulder it well- it is a long season. Fulky is a fan-favorite, and I would love to see him have a great season. Let’s hope he starts well against the Bulldogs!
My pre-season article from earlier in the fall says we will win this game. Today, I say we beat UNC Asheville by more than 20 points. I will predict an 86-60 final score. I am excited to watch our lineups begin to take shape for the season, and hope we get a look at guys like Drew Pember, Zach Kent, and Olivier Nkamhoua in the frontcourt. All in all, I expect it to be a typical season opener in TBA, and for the boys to walk out with a “W” on night number one.
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