South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 20-13, 11-7 (T-5th) *NIT
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Cuonzo Martin (39-28, third year; 100-69, sixth year)
Top returners: G Jordan McRae (15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg); F Jarnell Stokes (12.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg); G Josh Richardson (7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Biggest losses: Trae Golden (12.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Kenny Hall (5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Skylar McBee (5.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg)
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Remember when Cuonzo Martin was hired from Missouri State to replace the fabled Bruce Pearl? One of my Tennessee buddies had a simple one-word reply.
The theory was that Tennessee got itself a caretaker. Come in, ride through the post-Pearl mess with a clean reputation, keep the program from going down a darker road to probation and then we’ll take care of you afterward. The catch to that was, “take care of you while you ain’t coaching here anymore.”
The Volunteers didn’t get a caretaker. They got a darned good coach.
Martin has his most talented team this year, and that’s saying something considering he’s won 39 games in two seasons and actually lost one of his best players in Trae Golden (Ugly). The two NIT appearances the Vols have had under Martin should be a thing of the past this year, when he takes UT to the NCAA tournament.
Martin has a tremendously talented team, one that probably won’t out-pace Kentucky or Florida for the SEC crown but could bid for third or fourth place. Jeronne Maymon, a wrecking ball in the paint who missed last season with a knee injury, is healthy and Martin signed Antonio Barton after he transferred from Memphis, adding to Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae.
The Vols are lurking right under the Top 25 at present but should be in there soon enough. They have an interesting game at Xavier for their season-opener and could play the Musketeers again in the Battle for Atlantis tournament. They also have a game at Wichita State, a Final Four team last year, before returning home for games against NC State and Virginia.
It’s a tough schedule, but one that UT will benefit from if it can win a few of those games. The RPI will definitely be there.
The Vols just need the wins to go with it, and that shouldn’t be a problem.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 27-8, 14-2 (First) *NCAA Elite Eight
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Holly Warlick (27-8, second year; 27-8, second year)
Top returners: G Meighan Simmons (16.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Bashaara Graves (13.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg); C Isabelle Harrison (9.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
Biggest losses: Taber Spani (11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Kamiko Williams (7.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); Jasmine Phillips (1.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg)
It will forever be a question, but Holly Warlick answered it well in her first season.
Warlick kept Tennessee at the top of the heap by winning the SEC and advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight last season, her first after taking over for the legendary Pat Summitt. Now she returns what she calls one of the most talented teams she can remember at UT.
Meighan Simmons tied for SEC Player of the Year in one vote last year. Bashaara Graves was SEC Freshman of the Year. And it’s always going to be Tennessee.
Not surprisingly, the Lady Vols were picked to win the league. They’ll play their usual slate of tough non-con games – at North Carolina, Texas, at Stanford – and they’ll win their usual 25 games. The only question is, as has been the case lately, is how far they’ll go before the question of “Can they beat UConn?” pops up.
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