This past week and extended Holiday weekend featured two basketball games in which the Vols took to the hardwood. While we technically walked away from the Emerald Coast Classic with a 3-1 record, (I for one, and many others, have or had no idea how many teams actually participated aside from the event coordinators themselves)*, we did suffer our first loss of the season. Lets take a look at what we learned about our team during the two higher profile match-ups of the Emerald Coast Classic, and what we can expect to see from our next opponent, the Rattlers from Florida A&M.
*For reference, these are all the teams that participated in the Emerald Coast Classic: Alabama State, Chattanooga, Chicago State, Florida State, Jacksonville State, Purdue, Tennessee, and VCU
Turner in the Two That Mattered
Looking back at our games against Florida State (Loss- 60-57), and Virginia Commonwealth (Win- 72-69), there were definitely a few takeaways we can look at. First, while he is our most clutch player, 2nd leading scorer, and has a number of big shots on his resume, Lamonte Turner is turning the ball over entirely too much. The Vols are one of those teams that can’t afford to make too many mistakes and achieve what they want to.
While the team as a whole turned the ball over far less against the Rams (21) than they did against FSU (13), Turner himself had his difficulties in both contests. Against Florida State, Turner had 8 turnovers compared to 2 assists, and against VCU had 5 turnovers compared to 7 assists. He also shot a combined 9 for 28 from the field. None of those stats are good enough for the Vols to rely as heavily on Turner as they do.
JJJ’s Continued Improvement
Josiah-Jordan James continues to show flashes of his potential. While his numbers still aren’t hopping off the page like some freshmen in the country, his versatility can be seen already. The ability to impact the game in so many areas make guys like him invaluable. If he gets his game clicking by conference play, this team may look much smoother and be much more efficient.
Early Season Success
Finally, I think it should be noted that we already have three very good wins on our resume. That is something that the selection committee really pays attention to come March, and I believe the Vols have definitely helped themselves already this season. I see this our Vols as an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament for certain, and maybe even a bubble team. However, victories over teams like VCU, Murray State, and Washington will go a long way in potentially punching the ticket to Tennessee’s 3rd straight “Big Dance” appearance.
School: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) University
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Coach: Robert McCullum (3rd Season)
2018-2019 record: 12-19 (9-7 MEAC)
Notable (kinda) Alumnus: I am going to have to rename this segment something like “people who were once enrolled at this school”. I feel like my past couple entries never graduated from the school I am talking about. Oh well. At one point in time, Lonnie Lynn, better known by his stage name Common, attended Florida A&M for two years while he worked towards a degree in business administration. He eventually graduated from Winston Salem State University (another HBCU you may have heard of having athletic success), graced FAMU’s campus for a bit.
Common has won a myriad of awards in numerous fields, including Golden Globe, Grammy, BET Hip Hop, and Emmy awards, among others. He also has been awarded an honorary doctorate. Some songs you may have heard by common include “The People”, “Take it EZ”, and “The Light” among many others (I know I left some good ones out).
Getting Ready for the Rattlers
It should come as no shocker that Tennessee has a much more talented roster than Florida A&M has. The 0-6 Rattlers are not completely devoid of talent, but I’m pretty sure that most of the Vols towards the end of the bench would log significant minutes in the Rattlers’ shade of orange.
FAMU has two players who you will likely hear mentioned or see as the main threats as the game goes along, both in the backcourt. First, MJ Randolph is a sophomore guard who was a member of last year’s MEAC All-Freshman team. Currently, Randolph is averaging 10 points and 2 assists per game. His counterpart, Rod Melton, Jr. is averaging 9.3 points per game. While you won’t see much offensive production overall from Florida A&M, these two are your most likely to make a dent in the score-sheet.
I fully expect the Rattlers to walk away from this game 0-7 and the Vols win by over 20 points. My score prediction is 72-48, as the Rattlers are losing each game, on average, by nearly 21 points. I, for one, will be looking for Olivier Nkamhoua, Davonte Gaines, and Josiah-Jordan James to get a little more tune-up as conference play quickly approaches. I am also hoping to see Lamonte Turner play a clean game.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. The 6-1 Vols are ranked 21st in the country, and we should all expect them to take care of business on Wednesday! Conference season is coming quickly and the Vols need all the tune-up games we can get for our young’ns! Also, for minute to minute coverage of all sports on The Hill, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues’ articles and podcasts on a variety of platforms, including Twitter (@More_Issues) and iTunes!
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