Tennessee is now ranked No. 5 in the country following the beat down they received from Kentucky Saturday night. The Vols have no choice but to move on and start looking ahead. Here are the three things they have to do.
Practice What They Preach
The foundation of this Tennessee team is a bunch of guys that were once picked to finish 13th in the SEC. Essentially that same team now carries a large chip on their shoulders as they prove everyone wrong – so we’re told.
That chip has not been there over the last few weeks. Tennessee has been winning, but they have not been dominating.
Box scores may make it seem as if Tennessee is just wearing teams out, but in reality teams have been able to remain within striking distance of the Vols as Tennessee struggles to completely put them away early.
So now we’re hearing the same ole jargon from the players. Grant Williams is saying “we’re going to challenge each other, because that’s not how we play, that’s not how Tennessee is.”
— WATE Sports (@WATESports) February 17, 2019
Similarly, Admiral Schofield is saying the team has not lost their hunger. Recently though, it looks like this team has, in fact, lost some of that hunger.
“We haven’t lost the hunger, we just didn’t come to play”
— Bleacher Report CBB (@br_CBB) February 17, 2019
If Tennessee wants to bounce back from their loss to Kentucky, they certainly have the opportunity to. With games against a terrible Vanderbilt team and then a battle against the SEC’s top team, LSU, the Vols could resettle themselves right back atop the SEC.
But first, the Vols have to practice what they preach.
Nothing made Rick Barnes lose more sleep Saturday night than the lack of rebounding from his team. Barnes is always a stickler about his team’s ability to grab the boards and Saturday night was a nightmare for him.
The most abysmal rebounding series came when the six-foot five-inch guard, Tyler Herro, had three shot attempts in the lane after grabbing his own rebound repeatedly. He was surrounded by a trio of Tennessee players all of whom had height and weight advantages on Herro.
In the game, Tennessee was outrebounded 39-26. But that doesn’t even tell the whole story.
The rebounding is a microcosm for the overarching theme of the game. Kentucky was simply tougher and more physical than Tennessee and it started with the boards.
Overall, we learned that Tennessee needs to get tougher. That starts with rebounding.
Figure Out PJ Washington
Last season, Grant Williams said that PJ Washington was in his head. Obviously, Washington is still there and he knows it.
Grant Williams gave away a very valuable thing in Knoxville last year. He admitted PJ Washington was in his head. PJ grinned when I asked about that last night. He climbed back in there again.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 17, 2019
He isn’t just in Williams’ head though. If anything, he’s inside the mind of Admiral Schofield even more.
Washington ate Schofield alive on Saturday and exposed that Schofield is not nearly as good of a defender as Tennessee fans want to believe.
When people look at Schofield, they see a player that is built like a house and assume he must be a good defender. When PJ Washington looks at Schofield, he sees a mental midget.
Tennessee players, especially Williams and Schofield need to figure out what they can do to stop Washington and not let him beat them mentally.
If they can do that, then we should see a completely different outcome when the Wildcats travel to Knoxville on March 2.
Cover Image: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports