Randy Smith: A Special Year Ahead For Vols Basketball?

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

The annual pre-season poll of SEC coaches and media was released this week, and as no surprise to anyone, Kentucky was picked to win yet another SEC Championship. The Wildcats, who failed to make the NCAA Tournament last season, received 21 first place votes, while Florida picked up five, and Tennessee received one. Kentucky is tabbed as the SEC favorite for the ninth time since 1998. In addition, Wildcat freshman Julius Randle was chosen as the pre-season player of the year. That’s really hard to figure out why a freshman is the pre-season player of the year when no one has ever seen him play in a college basketball game. I know he’s good, and will likely jump right to the NBA at the end of the season, but come on guys!

Randle was chosen as a first team All-SEC selection along with Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, Alabama guard Trevor Releford, LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant III, and Tennessee guard Jordan McCrae. Though Tennessee was picked to finish third, the Vols had three of the 13 players selected on the first two teams. Kentucky led with four, while Florida had two.

Tennessee’s two second-team selections could be a real key to the Vols’ success this season.  Junior forward Jarnell Stokes and senior Jeronne Maymon provide perhaps the best front court in the SEC. Stokes had a good year in 2013, even though with the season long absence of Maymon, he was constantly double and triple-teamed underneath the basket.  A healthy Maymon should open up a lot of opportunities for Stokes to dominate.

Jordan McCrae returns for his senior season as one of the best offensive players in the country. McCrae came into his own at the midway point of last year, and developed into a deadly shooter from any position on the floor.  Incoming transfer point guard Antonio Barton will provide solid backcourt leadership, with several other Vols battling for the fourth starter’s spot.

This could be the most talented team in Coach Cuonzo Martin’s tenure at Tennessee, and as he enters his third season in Knoxville, he will need that talent. The Vols have not made the NCAA Tournament in his first two seasons, and if he keeps the wolves away from his door, they need to win 20 or more games, make the NCAA field, and even advance to the “Sweet 16.” This team has the potential to do much better. The 2013-14 Volunteers could be a Final-Four team if things go their way.

The chemistry must get better. The team has had hot and cold spells for each of the last two seasons, and the season came to an embarrassing end in the early rounds of the NIT both years. Injuries hurt Tennessee last year, especially the one to Jeronne Maymon.  If everyone stays healthy for the entire season, the Vols could make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s been three long years since U.T. dismissed Coach Bruce Pearl, arguably the most successful Tennessee basketball coach since Ray Mears. Pearl still has his supporters, though everyone basically agrees he should have been dismissed because of lying about NCAA recruiting violations. I loved Coach Pearl; I really did, but I also think Coach Cuonzo Martin is the man for the job at Tennessee. He really needs a streak of good luck for the upcoming season; a streak of good luck that will carry his team all the way to the NCAA Final-Four. I look for that to happen!

rsmithsports@comcast.net

---

Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).


Covenant Lady Scots Prepare For Season Opener Tuesday

An experienced squad mixed with impact newcomers has 22-year head coach Mark Duble excited about his 2015 Covenant women's soccer team. The Lady Scots embark on the new campaign on Tuesday against Berry at 5 p.m. at Scotland Yard. Covenant returns eight starters from last year's squad and features six seniors and six juniors off of last year's team that finished sixth in the ... (click for more)

GPS Head Of School Dr. Graves Profiled In #SheBelieves Campaign

GPS Head of School Dr. Autumn Graves is officially a part of the U.S Women's National Team's #SheBelieves campaign. Before the World Cup soccer champions defeated Costa Rica in front of a record crowd of 20,535 at Finley Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 19, Dr. Graves met with USWNT midfielder Heather O'Reilly and hosted a photographer and director of communications from the U.S. Soccer ... (click for more)

Hutcheson Medical Center Seeking Court Approval To Sell Trenton Family Practice For $350,000

Hutcheson Medical Center, continuing to make cost-cutting measures, is seeking court approval to sell the Trenton Family Practice at Trenton, Ga., for $350,000. Ted Rumley, county executive for Dade County, said the medical center is so important for the county that officials have arranged for the Dade County Industrial Development Authority to buy it. He said arrangements ... (click for more)

Sheriff Hammond Says Chattanooga Shooting Was Illustration Of "Islam Terrorism"

"Communism with a god.” That’s how Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond sees Islam.   He also said Muslims are aiming to overtake Tennessee. He said, "They want Tennessee. They are building mosques as fast as they can."   In an address to the Pachyderm Club on Monday, Sheriff Hammond spoke again to the community on the effects of radical Islam and the dangers ... (click for more)

Sheriff Hammond Is Right On The Muslim Threat

Sheriff Hammond is exactly correct on the Muslims in Tennessee.  He sees with clear eyes the problem with the Muslims in our state and country.  They do want to take over Tennessee.  Our politicians are selling us down the river and allowing the trouble makers to dig in like tics and suck out the life's blood of our Constitution and take us over.  They ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My September Garden

As we begin the annual pilgrimage into fall, I walk through my garden and, in the spirit of Orchids and Onions, I see colorful mums starting to flower at the same time dried-up weeds are begging to be pulled. So as we turn the calendar to September, here are some things that catch my eye: A COLORFUL MUM to Chattanooga State for unveiling the Michael Hennen Hospitality Center in ... (click for more)