Hour 1: It’s CHAMPIONSHIP FRIDAY on The Swain Event! Swain, Fred White, Charlie, and Brad talk about how the VFL situation needs to be handled by Jeremy Pruitt and the guys dig up the hardest hit Fred ever took in college.
Prior to the 2017–18 college hoops season, many analysts and pundits were not too bullish on Tennessee. In the preseason, the Vols were pegged to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC. My, how the tide has turned. UT is currently ranked 20th in both the Associated Press and the USA Today coaches polls. They have impressive victories over Purdue, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and Lipscomb, and on Sunday, the Vols will duke it out with the No. 7 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
Let’s put this game under the microscope:
Obviously basketball is a team game, but it’s quite hard to ignore the star power both of these teams have. UNC’s bell cow, surprisingly, is the wily veteran forward Luke Maye. You may know Maye (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) from his clutch shot downing Kentucky in last year’s big dance.
Maye has evolved from a one shot hero to a consistent, borderline dominant stud. He’s averaging a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. He also plays more than anyone on UNC’s roster, logging about 31 minutes of court time in every game.
On the flip side, UT has Grant Williams. His stats aren’t too shabby. Williams is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per outing. Williams is an absolute load in the paint at around 6-foot-7, 240 pounds. Needless to say, it should be a slug fest down in the post. Both Maye and Williams are versatile and can beat you down low but they also have prowess hitting jump shots away from the basket.
Make no mistake, though, Maye is not the only headliner for the Heels. They have the uber-talented senior point guard Joel Berry II. He’s second in game minutes with 29 per contest and he’s posting 16 points and four assists per game. To take on UNC’s backcourt, the Vols will likely have rotate a plethora of guards, including James Daniel III, Jordan Bone, and Lamonte Turner to attempt to slow Berry down.
North Carolina will be razor thin at the point guard spot. Behind Berry they typically have sophomore Seventh Woods, but Woods will be out with an injury. Tennessee should try hard to capitalize on UNC’s lacking point guard situation. Look for guys like Bone and Jordan Bowden to really attack Berry, trying to get him in precarious foul trouble. Things could turn south and get dicey for the Heels if Berry can effectively be eliminated from the game.
To win big matchups you need clutch players and sharp shooters to hit big time shots. North Carolina has just that with junior shooting guard Kenny Williams. He’s currently drilling 55 percent of his shots from downtown and is posting 13 points a game. Williams is also not afraid to mix it up down low, averaging four rebounds per contest.
6-foot-6 senior forward Theo Pinson is yet another guy that could be an x-factor for UNC. He’s an athletic freak who is averaging nine points and five rebounds a game. He makes statement dunks and blocks that can change the complexion of any given game. Pinson is an energizer bunny, making plays to spark his team and give them extra fuel and he can also be a lockdown defender.
Thankfully, UT has its own x-factor in Admiral Schofield. Schofield is a big body who can hang and bang down low but can also step out and hit shots. I would not be surprised to see Pinson and Schofield go head to head throughout the game.
And if this matchup boils down to free throw shooting, Tennessee has a slight advantage. The Tar Heels are averaging 70 percent from the line while UT is averaging a respectable 76 percent from the charity stripe.
I expect this game to be a serious battle. If it was in Chapel Hill or at a neutral site, I would give the leg up to Carolina. But, credit to Rick Barnes, because even on paper, UT is a solid matchup for Roy Williams’ squad. The Vols are not significantly overmatched by the Heels on either end of the floor. I expect an absolutely raucous crowd at Thompson Boling Arena to be a big factor and give Tennessee a boost. Considering all these elements, I get the gut feeling that UT will come to play and will eek out a victory. It should be a nail biter, but I think the Vols finish the job.
A native of Tampa, FL, Penix had been committed to UT since April 2017. He’s rated as the No. 20 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2018 and the No. 88 prospect from the state of Florida, according to 247 Sports.
With Penix’s decommitment, Tennessee now has just 12 total recruits committed for 2018 and the class is ranked No. 36 nationally, No. 11 in the SEC.
According to multiple reports, LSU ‘general manager’ Austin Thomas is leaving Baton Rouge to take a position on Jeremy Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee.
Thomas has spent the last four and a half years with the Tigers and has become an integral part of LSU’s recruiting operations. At his current age of 31, Thomas has served as director of player personnel, assistant athletics director, and general manager during his time working under Les Miles and more recently Ed Orgeron.
Thomas is a Franklin, TN native and a graduate of UT. He began his college football operations career with the Vols as a recruiting intern in 2008. He followed Lane Kiffin from Tennessee to USC in 2010 and spent time working in various positions for the Trojans until he left for LSU in 2013.
According to LSU’s official athletics website, Thomas’s job description as general manager was as follows…
“The first General Manager in the history of the Southeastern Conference and one of two in the nation, Thomas leads the way in the oversight and management of the entire LSU Football program. One of the top personnel managers in all of college football, Thomas works closely with NFL personnel to maximize the opportunity for LSU student-athletes as the next level.
“He helped the Tigers claim back-to-back Top 5 signing classes in 2014 and 2015, which included signing the nation’s top overall player in 2014. He was named the Personnel Director of the Year in 2015 and a finalist for the award in 2014.”
A report from The Advocate in Baton Rouge stated that Thomas will hold a “similar job” in Knoxville.
We will update this story if and when additional information becomes available.
Jeremy Pruitt’s early recruiting efforts paid off big on Wednesday when four-star athlete Alontae Taylor re-committed to the Vols. Taylor was originally committed to UT but pulled his pledge after Butch Jones was fired in November.
Kirby Smart and Georgia made an aggressive push for Taylor’s commitment but the Bulldogs were rebuffed when he tweeted that he’s “1000% committed” to Tennessee…
Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 1000% COMMITTED 🍊#PruittEra
Taylor, a 6-foot, 184-pound native of Manchester, TN is classified as an athlete but projects as a wide receiver at the college level. He is rated as the No. 23 wide receiver in the class of 2018 and the No. 5 player in the state of Tennessee, according to 247 Sports.
Take a look at some of Taylor’s highlights by clicking the link below…