Welcome to the inaugural edition of Bracketbusters, an article series dedicated to the teams who have the chance to bust your bracket, hence the clever name. Sure, it’s early and these teams still have to make the tournament, but there is no better time to get a head start on your brackets than now. These teams will give you a leg up on everyone in the office, including Janet from the HR department who won last year’s pool by picking cute mascots. Actually, these articles probably won’t help you at all, but you can place all the blame on me when Janet repeats this year by picking teams with her favorite colors. Let’s kick it off with the Tennessee Volunteers.
Why Tennessee Could Make Noise in March:
In times of turmoil at the University of Tennessee, at least Volunteer fans can look forward to basketball season. The newly ranked 24th Volunteers put the nation on notice over the Thanksgiving holiday with a spectacular performance in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Tennessee was able to outlast 18th ranked Purdue in OT behind sophomore stud Grant Williams and his ability to outwork Purdue’s giant 7-footers. The following day, Tennessee blew a 12 point halftime lead to fall short to a top 5 Villanova squad. The Volunteers were able to bounce back the next day with a win against an N.C. State team to clinch third-place in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Along with an eye-opening tournament, Tennessee edged out a sluggish road win at Georgia Tech on Sunday, something last year’s team would not have been able to overcome according to sophomore guard Lamonte Turner. Sunday’s win against Georgia Tech puts Tennessee at 6-1 on the season, 3-0 against the ACC (including an exhibition win at Clemson), and moves the Vols into the Top 25 for the first time since 2010. This is a fun, scrappy team that plays with a chip on their shoulder and has proven they can play with anyone. It is evident that this Tennessee team is much better than preseason number 13 in the SEC polls (Ha, what a bunch of idiots!).
Tennessee runs about seven or eight deep consistently. Among those players, sophomore big man Grant Williams is the go-to option for this team. Williams, a preseason All-SEC 2nd Team pick, leads the Vols in scoring with 15.7 PPG and averaged over 18 PPG during the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Alongside Williams, 6-foot-11 junior Kyle Alexander has been one of the most improved players on the roster. His long, lanky frame allows him to affect opponents’ shots around the basket. Alexander has already doubled his rebound average from 4.0 RPG to 8.0 RPG this season. Rounding out the frontcourt, Admiral Schofield is second on the team with 11.7 PPG and can play both on the wing or in the post thanks to his linebacker-like body.
The Vols have a young but experienced backcourt led by sophomores Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner. Bone is one of the fastest guards in the SEC, but can be turnover prone at times while Turner is a fearless, relentless scorer from anywhere on the floor. The final two guards that play significant minutes include sophomore Jordan Bowden, a Knoxville native who leads the team in minutes and threes made, and the lone senior James Daniel III, a transfer from Howard who lead the nation in scoring as a junior.
Notable Games Remaining:
Dec. 17 vs. #11 North Carolina
Dec. 23 @ Wake Forest
Jan. 6 vs. #8 Kentucky
Jan. 13 vs #7 Texas A&M
Jan. 27 @ Iowa State
Feb. 6 @ #8 Kentucky
Feb. 10 @ Alabama
Feb. 21 vs #5 Florida