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Thoughts From Scrimmage: A few things to watch for during the Tennessee game tonight

On Tuesday this week, I was fortunate enough to have the spare time available to attend the open scrimmage of the Tennessee Volunteers men's basketball team.  My plan had been to compile my thoughts and observations on Thursday, but ... yeah.  So with full apologies for the short notice, here are some of the things I noticed.

  • Tempo = Up.  We all know that Bruce Pearl likes the team to play fast.  'Controlled Chaos' is his theme.  Watching him run practice on Tuesday, it's clear that he doesn't want a repeat of last year's pace.  This team will run.  Period.
  • Point Guards are still a work in progress.  Give the points a few games.  Remember that Melvin Goins is still new to the team, and that Bobby Maze is going to be leading a different tempo of offense this year than last year.  I don't see any reason why they won't be successful, but there will be a bit of adjustment as they play more live-fire games.
  • Skylar McBradshaw.  I know, I know:  it's way too early to project a walk-on when he has yet to play an official game for the team.  But Skylar McBee is going to be a player you love.  He'll have his growing up to do as well, but he's a hard worker and he really exudes a love for his situation.  If you're watching on the telly, take note whenever he shoot the ball; the crowd will pull for every single shot.
  • Wayne Chism is a forward.  With Kenny Hall in the rotation, Chism is playing more forward than center.  This allows for a lot of options with both Brian Williams and Wayne Chism on the floor at the same time, and also give Chism the chance to shoot threes while having a center available for a rebound.
  • Speaking of Kenny Hall...  he looked really good in practice.  He's still new, so give him the proper grace, but he appears to be climbing the learning curve quite nicely.
  • Scotty Hopson is more physical.  He's more willing to take the bumps and to play tighter defense.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to see his game take a major step forward this year.
  • Brian Williams and free throws don't mix.  Maybe he just had a bad day on Tuesday, but he did seem to follow the Shaq school of big-man free throws.  But to his credit, he most well and he looks to be in very good shape.
  • Our team has a great scout team.  Sure, they're not as physically talented as the regulars, but the scout players do their job very well.  They're smart and they know the system.  It's a phase of the game that we never see, but you can rest a little easier knowing that our Vols are getting some great workouts during the practice sessions.  And Steven Pearl is a very smart player.  It appears that he leads the scout team, and does a good job with them.
  • The offense is more involved than you think.  Just listening to Pearl teach the team, you can tell that there are a lot of subtle details that go into the offense.  Pearl isn't just a run-and-gun kind of a guy.  When the team finds their groove, we should be in for a real treat.
  • Championship driven mentality.  The eyes are on the prize, in a big way.  The scrimmage wasn't about getting ready for tonight; it was about getting ready for the Kansas Jayhawks, the Kentucky Wildcats, and the SEC and NCAA tournaments.  Bruce has a ridiculously high bar set for the team, and he expects them to learn how to clear it.
  • Black jerseys?  Bruce is very much a traditionalist.  Black jerseys will not show up on the road (basketball teams wear white a home and colors on the road).  However, he did say that he recognizes the game to be a student-athlete game, and that if a special occasion warranted, he might consider doing it for a home game.  It led to one of his more interesting philosophies:
  • Let 'em hate.  In a nutshell, if rivals hate some UT tradition, he wants more of it.  Hate the orange?  Wear more!  Hate Rocky Top?  Play it all the time!  (With that, I propose that the pep band play only Rocky Top whenever they're on the road with the team.)
  • Did I mention tempo?  They're going to run.  No, they're going to run.  This team will know what it's like to run all game long.  If they can't beat a team straight up, they're going to run them into the ground and win the war of attrition.