Where does Tennessee go from here?
The Vols were already 1-2 in their last three games, now they’ve lost their starting point guard and senior leader Lamonte Turner for the season. Making matters worse is the timing of the situation as Tennessee is left with just Wisconsin on the non-conference slate to iron things out before starting SEC play in January.
The Badgers will serve as Tennessee’s only chance to find themselves before welcoming LSU in a very important early season conference game. The good news? Wisconsin is in the midst of a down season, sitting at just 6-5 on the year — with some obvious issues away from home.
Wisconsin so far this year
They started the season with an opening night loss to St. Mary’s, dropping that one 65-63 in overtime. Wisconsin was able to rebound though, picking up a strong 16 point win over Marquette. But that high didn’t last very long.
Wisconsin then went on a three game losing skid, dropping games to Richmond, New Mexico and N.C. State. They were able to stop the bleeding with a victory over Indiana, but turned around and dropped another game shortly after, this time to Rutgers.
One key for the Badgers has been the location of the game. Wisconsin is still searching for their first win away from home, so far standing at 0-5 on the year. Thompson-Boling Arena might just give Tennessee the edge they need on Saturday.
The Wisconsin offense runs through a big guy that can shoot, as it typically seems to do. Nate Reuvers, standing in at 6-11, is averaging north of 15 points so far this season. He’s shooting 32 percent from three-point range this season, though that number dips to 15 percent on the road. Both John Fulkerson and Yves Pons will have to defend the three-point line in this one.
Kobe King, a 6-4 sophomore guard, is another guy that can fill it up for the Badgers. He’ll be coming off of his worst game of the season on Saturday, fresh off of a zero point performance against Milwaukee. King averages 11.5 points per game and will provide a challenge for Tennessee’s new look backcourt.
Junior guards Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice round out the Badgers’ backcourt with experience and shooting ability. Another junior, forward Aleem Ford, has blossomed into a legitimate 6-8 scoring threat on the wing this year for Wisconsin.
What does Tennessee do without Turner?
Where do the minutes go? Clearly, a lot more responsibility is going to be dumped on Josiah-Jordan James. The five-star freshman guard is Tennessee’s new starting point guard, and Rick Barnes needs him to put his foot on the gas and score to try and jumpstart a struggling offense.
The ripple effect will force more minutes on Jalen Johnson and Davonte Gaines. Johnson has played sparingly in a season that was supposed to see him finally get his chance to play significant minutes. This is his second chance to capitalize on that.
Gaines has spent some time leading the Tennessee offense in blowout situations. He may be asked to do that in big spots now while James and Jordan Bowden rest.
Speaking of Bowden — it’s his time. It’s time to assert himself as the clear leader and scorer on this team. Tennessee now lacks depth everywhere, so Bowden is really going to have to fill it up nightly for the Volunteers to have a chance to win games.