Butch Jones and Donnie Tyndall seem to be getting pretty cozy due to all of the quality Big Orange Caravan time they're spending together. At times, it practically sounds like they're dating, what with all of the staying at restaurants until 1:00 in the morning "just talking" stuff.
Jones must have helped Tyndall with the marketing for the season, because Tyndall has settled on a goal of becoming "the most overachieving team in college basketball." That strikes a nice balance between setting realistic expectations and still getting fans excited about the possibilities.
Tyndall's also following the Jones Blueprint(TM) by winning over former players whom we already love. Enter Dane Bradshaw:
"He told me he'd given my book ('Vertical Leap: Inside the Rise of Tennessee Basketball') to one of his players at Morehead and told him he needed to play like me," Bradshaw said. "I guess he was trying to find guys who couldn't shoot free throws but could improve the team GPA."
Ba dump bump. But seriously:
"I love the fact that he's won at multiple places (Morehead State and Southern Miss)," he said. "And the productivity and efficiency he's shown in recruiting in a short amount of time is unbelievable. Plus, he's done it in a way that will keep a lot of scholarships open down the road. He's been able to get guys who can play now but won't hurt his recruiting classes later on."
By the way, if you're sort of new around here, check out our interview with Bradshaw and learn how an experience with Scottie Pippen made Dane the guy we adore. If the audio doesn't load, blame Talkshoe and then console yourself with our review of his book instead, which includes the same story but without Dane himself telling it.
Jones has his own issues to deal with, too, you know, and is also trying to set expectations while simultaneously stoking optimism. The message essentially boils down to this: The culture is in place and the standard is in place. The talent . . . is getting there. The experience . . . well, that can only come with time. But it should be fun to watch.
The SEC has also announced a 12-year rotation of non-divisional opponents for every team, including the Vols. We still always play Alabama, but we now know the other SEC West teams we'll play through 2025. The next three are Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Texas A&M.
Etceteras. Eric McKnight, a recent Florida Gulf Coast University grad, has signed his papers to transfer to Tennessee to one year for Tyndall. . . . Tyndall's hoping to get an answer from Darius Thompson, who had requested and been granted a release to transfer but is still making up his mind on whether to stay. . . . There are travel packages available for this November's Orlando Classic, which puts the Vols in a tournament with the likes of Kansas, Marquette, and Michigan State.