The Tennessee basketball season kicks off tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena. Rick Barnes gave us our first look at life without Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield last week in an exhibition win, featuring an offense that ran almost totally through senior guards Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden.
With seven-foot center Uros Plavsic currently being ruled ineligible by the NCAA, expect Tennessee to keep with the small-ball tonight — and perhaps all season.
Five-star guard Josiah James showed off his basketball IQ in the exhibition win, racking up seven assists as he shook off some rust. He should come along offensively as he gets his legs under him following an injury.
Other freshmen Drew Pember, Olivier Nkamhoua, Davonte Gaines got a bunch of minutes last week. Will that trend continue now that the games count? That’s something to watch tonight.
Tennessee faces UNC-Asheville tonight, a program that won just four games last season. The Volunteers are 10-0 all time in this series. The Bulldogs gave 76 percent of their minutes last season to freshmen — hence the four wins. Head coach Mike Morrell is hoping that tough season last year will pay dividends this year.
The Vols last faced UNC-Asheville in 2015, narrowly escaping with an 82-78 win.
One player to watch
Lavar Batts Jr. is a former top prospect in the state of North Carolina. The former top 100 player played 30 games for N.C. State as a freshman before transferring. He sat out last year, but is now ready to bring his talents to UNC-Asheville. The 6-3 guard will be one to pay attention to tonight.
How to Watch
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
TV Channel: None (SECN+)
Tip-off Time: 7 p.m. ET
Streaming: Watch ESPN
Odds: Tennessee -29