As Rick Barnes unpacked his thoughts on Monday to the media, he pointed to one thing that he had been preaching on for the duration of the season.
Specifically, consistency from his guards. Barnes was pressed about highlighting one area where he felt like his team was lacking and he immediately brought up the feel for the game.
“Understanding how important possessions are at certain points in the game — our guards — just like in football. You want a quarterback that has a total feel for the game,” Barnes said.
He pointed to a Villanova guard for reference. “The only game I watched in the tournament. Jalen Brunson controlled that game (against Texas Tech). He knew what they needed to do and when they had to do it. He knew when to go with it. He knew when to stop with it. That’s the biggest thing you’re looking for and that’s where we can improve.”
For as good as Tennessee was, they didn’t have that consistent threat from the point guard position. We saw offensive spurts from Lamonte Turner and occasionally from Jordan Bone, but we saw plenty of droughts as well. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams proved to be consistently capable of taking over games, but Barnes didn’t have that option out of his point guards.
“We knew with Bone and Turner this year, it would be a process,” Barnes said. “They’ve gotten better, but it’s not just them. It goes to your frontline guys. It’s when to shoot and not to shoot. It’s just an overall feel for the game. I think we can be a better offensive team if guys figure out how to truly be efficient.”
Tennessee was tied for 169th in points per game and 37th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. They were carried by their defense, which ranked 24th in terms of points allowed this season.
“Our defense got better as the year went on, and that’s something that we were terrible at for two years,” Barnes said. “I’d like to be a little more multiple, but where we got this year was all due to our defense.”
If Barnes and his staff can elevate the offense to match the defensive efficiency next season, Tennessee just might be something special.