We're trying to learn as much as we can as fast as we can about Donnie Tyndall's Vols, and we're all going to get some things wrong by way of jumping to conclusions too quickly along the way. Tennessee's press is designed to wear teams down, and tonight the Vols and Tigers played to a 30-30 draw in the first half before Tennessee pulled away 40-28 in the second. Texas Southern had 13 turnovers while the Vols gave it away just eight times, the better look we were hoping for after 19 against VCU. What do we know here after playing such a good pressure team and such a lower-level opponent? Who knows.
Josh Richardson led the Vols in scoring for the second straight night with 19, including 3 for 3 from the arc in the first half. He didn't turn the ball over, but had only two assists and the Vols had only seven as a team. Tennessee looks like what they are: a bunch of guys who haven't played with each other very long and many of whom haven't played with this much structure. You can see them thinking instead of playing on instinct at times, on both ends of the floor. So it's encouraging when you see flashes, which you do at times. Willie Carmichael had 10 points and seven rebounds tonight, and Kevin Punter also hit three threes to finish with 13. The Vols were +13 in rebounds even though at times they are still clearly learning to box out playing a zone defense.
And Tennessee got a number of good looks, especially early, that just didn't fall. Those windows will tighten as the quality of competition increases. So you also have to hope the more this team plays together, the better it will be. Everyone believes Tyndall's stuff can work here. How soon is the question right now, and we'll have to keep waiting for the answer. The next clues will come in Orlando over Thanksgiving weekend and will again pull the Vols across the spectrum: a winnable game with Santa Clara to open, then probably Kansas if you do, then maybe Marquette or Georgia Tech as the middle ground. We'll learn a little more, they'll grow a little more, and hopefully fast enough to give themselves a chance against the better teams on their schedule.
For tonight, Tennessee needed to win, and they did. Congrats to Coach Tyndall and so many newcomers who got their first W; here's hoping there's more where that came from sooner than later.