1. Is Olivier Nkamhoua healthy?
Obviously, this will have a huge impact on how Tennessee basketball runs its lineup. There’s actually a great chance Olivier Nkamhoua doesn’t start either way, though, as Rick Barnes may want to run Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips at the three and four spots.
However, starting is irrelevant in college basketball now. It’s all about rotations, and Nkamhoua is a huge part of that rotation. As a result, his health will play a crucial role in the Vols being able to go as deep as they want to go, so pay attention to how he looks early.
2. What level of development have Jonas Aidoo and Uros Plavsic shown?
Again, without John Fulkerson and Branton Huntley-Hatfield, these two are it at the five. History says you need one legitimate five to win the national title in college basketball. Last year, size mismatches cost the Vols went their shot stopped falling against the Michigan Wolverines.
Uros Plavsic and Jonas Aidoo could neutralize that if they properly developed in the offseason. That would involve Plavsic being a fully refined center able to use his size as an advantage and Aidoo having enough control with his incredible athleticism to be dominant.
3. How easily will Julian Phillips fit in with the rotation?
This is part of the question of how Barnes wants to run his starting lineup, whether he runs James at the three and Phillips at the four or just one of them at the three. He could also run Santiago Vescovi at the one, James at the two and Phillips at the three, but that’s unlikely.
Anyway, Phillips is the transcendent star on this roster, one who draws parallels to Kevin Durant. He’s an elite scorer, and there are multiple ways to use him, but how Barnes fits him in remains to be seen. It seems most likely he’ll step in at the four, but watch for what he does.