Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes addressed the media this afternoon for the first time since the Volunteers’ loss to Loyola-Chicago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He discussed the early exit, along with where this team can go next year and beyond.
Dealing with the early exit
“They were devastated. You guys saw that. There’s not much you can say, but watch how they react. Some guys get right back in the gym — they were all back in the gym today. The NCAA rule says we had to take seven days off. But Yves Pons has been in there every day. It was all new for them. It was exciting, but they saw how quickly it can end. This group did some special things, but what I like the most — they’re not satisfied. They want more.”
“I think individual guys have to be more consistent,” Barnes said. “We’ll get back to the fundamental work of shooting and passing. Conditioning is a big part of that as well. And not just endurance, John Fulkerson, Kyle Alexander and Jalen Johnson will need to continue to get stronger. They all have different needs that need to be met.”
Dealing with overall success and how to get better
“It’s up to you as coaches to help them realize that there’s always a way to get better,” Barnes said. “So much of it too is chemistry. This year was the first time in my career that I’ve ever had a guy get hurt in the NCAA Tournament. You want to be able — when those things happen, it can’t affect you. And it did affect us.
“The motivation you hope comes from within. Roles will change next year. We want to see guys get better and we want to see that competition in practice. That’s where you really start to forge it.”
On where Grant Williams can improve
“Conditioning is a major part of what he needs to do. I don’t think there’s any question that he’s got to get himself into high level conditioning. If he does that, it’s going to help him in a lot of areas. He’ll be able to guard the ball better on the perimeter and play longer and harder.”
On what Kyle Alexander means to the team
“Me personally, I thought we could get by without him. And we could at times. But ask any of the guys, he’s the anchor. He’s the fix it guy. I think he will improve. It devastated him that he couldn’t play. He tried, he was emotional before the game when he couldn’t do anything. Hopefully now he realizes that he’s a very valuable part of this team going forward.”