On Tuesday night Tennessee basketball began their season on the road against Xavier. The outcome was a loss after a dismal shooting performance from all over the floor.
While it is early in the season, no team in the country knows better than the Vols that wins in games like that matter. Tennessee has been left out of the past two NCAA tournaments despite late season surges, mostly due to their lack of high profile wins, such as the game they let slip through their hands Tuesday night.
The Vols may not be finished with Xavier yet, however, as they could face them in the second day of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament will take place over Thanksgiving weekend from Nov. 28-30.
Before their mini-vacation Tennessee will have business to take care of at home in Knoxville, Tenn., first against USC Upstate on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.
Like the Vols, USC Upstate comes into Saturday’s matchup fresh off of their first loss of the season. The difference, though, is the Spartans were victorious in their first game of the season as they knocked off Virginia Tech in their season opener on the road one week ago.
If the Vols are going to have success against USC Upstate they’ll have to contain senior forward Torrey Craig, and junior guard Ty Greene. Craig is the Spartans leading scorer through two games, and also leads the team in rebounds.
In their 82-74 loss to Winthrop Wednesday night Craig totaled 31 points and nine rebounds, while Greene added another 21 to allow the two alone accountable for 52 of the team’s 74 points. Greene leads the team in assists and contributed seven of them Wednesday to go along with his 21 points.
Jordan McRae, the Vols returning leading scorer from a season ago, picked up where he left off last season by scoring 23 points in the Vols season opener against Xavier. However, down in the post, Jarnell Stokes seemed non-existent in Tuesday night’s loss.
Stokes got into foul trouble early, which led to his early exit and grim stat line at the end of the night. While the return of Jeronne Maymon was supposed to help Stokes, and keep him free of double-teams in the post this season, Maymon’s presence is all for not if Stokes can’t keep himself on the court.
Luckily for the Vols, depth is not an issue this season. With rule changes to how teams are supposed to play defense this year, the bench will come in handy for Cuonzo Martin’s squad throughout the season, or at least until his physical defense can adapt to the new rules for 2013-2014.
After Saturday Tennessee will have two more home games before heading off to the Bahamas. The Vols can be seen in action on Sports South when they tip-off at 7 p.m. against USC Upstate Saturday, Nov. 16.