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Previewing Tennessee: Vols have turnover and turnovers, plus some other stuff

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Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee @ StatSheet
Tennessee roster
Tennessee schedule
Tennessee 2014 stats / 2015 stats

Tennessee Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 49.7 (162) 16.8 (71) 39.7 (5) 41.8(128)
2014-15 47.9 (179) 18.4 (93) 39.0 (26) 38.4 (162)

Tennessee is coming off a season in which it reached the Sweet Sixteen and came painfully close to advancing at least one more round; more often than not this is the sign of a program in a good position. But Tennessee lost three of its top four scorers and its head coach during the offseason, forcing the Volunteers into something of a reset season.

The new head coach is Donnie Tyndall, who spent the prior two years at Southern Mississippi. He's made more than a half dozen additions to the Tennessee roster, hitting both the juco and high school ranks to help fill out a team that was gutted by graduation.

The offense is holding up reasonably well amid the transition; the Vols are still grabbing a lot of offensive boards despite the absence of rebounding machines Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, and the Vols are scoring inside the arc as effectively as they did in 2014.

Outside shooting has become a major problem, though--Jordan McRae and Antonio Barton are gone, and it was those guys the Vols relied on for the bulk of their three-point production. Now Tennessee is struggling to find players who are capable of making threes. Five players have taken 10 threes or more this season, but only two are shooting better than 30%, and none better than 36%. There's senior Josh Richardson, who Tennessee knows it can count on, and then a grab bag of who-the-heck-knows.

Until they get that sorted out--assuming it can be sorted out--Tennessee would be well-advised to keep those offensive rebounds coming.

Starters

Josh Richardson (6-6, 200) -- With so little experience returning, Richardson was an obvious candidate for a leadership role in Tyndall's first year. After serving in a secondary capacity his first three seasons in Knoxville, he's getting his chance in 2015 to be the guy. Richardson is shooting 51.5% from two and 36% from three, and that is similar to his 2014 production, but his turnover rate is way up, which might be a sign of a guy forcing things at times.

Kevin Punter (6-4, 180) -- Obviously this man missed his calling but that's neither here nor there. He was a 37% three-point shooter in his final junior college season, but he's off to a 4-20 start at Tennessee. He is hitting nearly 59% of his twos, though.

Devon Baulkman (6-5, 200) -- Scoring ability needs work but he's been a solid offensive rebounder.

Armani Moore (6-5, 215) -- Moore is also a player who was on last year's Tennessee team and as such received a coupon for additional shots this season. In some respects he seems to be benefiting from Tyndall's system--his rebounding has improved, his block and steal rates are up. But he's not proving that he should be considered a primary contributor at the offensive end.

Willie Carmichael (6-8, 210) -- Carmichael's value is as a shot blocker and rebounder, at least until he refines his game to a point where he can contribute more points. At this point in his freshman campaign, he's been content to take the occasional shot while deferring to everybody else.

Bench

Detrick Mostella (6-3, 170), Jabari McGhee (6-8, 210), Derek Reese (6-8, 220), Robert Hubbs (6-6, 206). My hat is off to Mostella for coming in and wanting to help out in a big way as a freshman, but if you are going to take 29% of the team's shots while you're on the court, you should probably shoot above 30% from three-point range, just as a general guideline.

McGhee's playing time has been limited, but in that time he's been an offensive rebounding monster and he's 14-20 from the floor. Reese will do some reboundin', probably some turnoverin', maybe some scoring here and there.

Tennessee Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 46.5 (56) 16.9 (256) 27.5 (19) 31.5 (25)
2014-15 50.1 (223) 23.9 (30) 40.0 (335) 54.1 (334)

The big change from last year to this one for Tennessee, both in terms of production and style, has come at this end. Tyndall's defense of choice is a pressure-heavy matchup zone. It's a 2-3 zone at its core but often looks like anything but.

Since Tyndall started relying on this defense at Morehead State back in 2010, he's never had a team finish lower than 43rd in turnover percentage. This style is ideal for creating mistakes and his teams have consistently been good at it.

His defenses also tempt or force opponents into becoming extremely perimeter-oriented. Last season, nobody got a higher 3FGA/FGA ratio out of opponents than Tyndall's USM team. Almost 45% of opponents' field goal attempts were threes. Tennessee is encouraging three-point attempts at a nearly identical rate this year. The system has its weaknesses, but discouraging two-point tries is not one of them.

Trouble is that opponents are shooting well from outside this season (37.5%), and UT is particularly vulnerable to the whims of three-point shooting, given the nature of this defense. The Vols are also doing a terrible job of collecting the shots its opponents do miss, and they are fouling a bunch. But other than that the installation of Tyndall's zone is going fine.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by six.