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).


Red Bank Loses In State Volleyball Opener

SMYRNA, Tenn. – The TSSAA State Volleyball tournament didn’t start off like the Red Bank Lionettes would have liked. Facing the Lady Irish from Knoxville Catholic here at Stewarts Creek High School in the first match Wednesday morning, the Lionettes never got comfortable and lost in three sets, falling by scores of 25-16, 25-13 and 25-19. Red Bank got an ace from Allison Walker ... (click for more)

Baylor Falls To Pope John Paul II In Division II State Soccer

The Baylor Red Raider soccer team battled Pope John Paul II through overtime Tuesday night in the first round of the Division II state soccer tournament.  The visitors were able to score in second overtime to earn the 4-3 win over Baylor. The game was tied 1-1 at halftime.  Baylor would lead twice in the second half before giving up a game tying goal in ... (click for more)

Man Shot At Apartments On Tunnel Boulevard Wednesday Afternoon, Then 2 Juveniles Shot At Rec Center On Oakwood Drive With Suspects In Custody

Chattanooga police officers responded to the apartment buildings at 404 Tunnel Blvd. Wednesday at 1:21 p.m., where residents say they heard multiple shots fired.  Witnesses said they saw multiple suspects fleeing the scene on foot behind the complex.  The male victim was taken to a local hospital for life threatening gunshot wounds.  Later Wednesday, ... (click for more)

Several Arrested Outside Erlanger Hospital When Crowd Gathers After Woodlawn Shooting

Several people were arrested Monday night outside Erlanger Hospital after a crowd gathered and clashed with police. The crowd included family and friends of 20-year-old Apprentice Berry, who was shot multiple times and killed earlier Monday night at the Woodlawn Apartments on Wilson Street. Erlanger officials said the group gathered at the emergency room, but were later moved ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Has Lost Its Most Popular Citizen - Luther Masingill - And Response

Chattanooga has lost its most popular citizen – Luther Masingill. Although we are saddened we cherish the memories.  All of us have a Luther story.  Mine is the first time I met Luther.  This was before TV and all of Chattanooga listened to Luther on the radio.  I was 12-years-old.  Some of my buddies and I had gone to the State Theater in downtown ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Policeman’s Prayer

Every year, when the Law Enforcement Foundation of Greater Chattanooga holds its annual luncheon, it is one of the most heartening displays of what America really believes, down deep inside. The most prominent and influential leaders in the community – well over 1,000 -- gather to pay tribute and pledge their support to our heroes in blue who are unfaltering in their devotion, service ... (click for more)