Last year was a unique step for Rick Barnes with Tennessee basketball. Historically, Barnes has always loved to use two true post players and rely on the midrange. However, after Olivier Nkamhoua went down with a season-ending injury, Barnes moved Josiah-Jordan James to the four and played small ball.
In the process, UT found a new identity. However, Nkamhoua is back this year, and Barnes has added a five-star wing in Julian Phillips who is expected to step in immediately. That leaves lots of questions as to how Barnes will use the Vols’ rotation at the three and the four.
On the other hand, the five is down to Uros Plavsic and Jonas Aidoo, a combination of experience and potential. It appears as if the two post spots will be occupied by these four players. Barnes may go three-deep for the two spots and only use one five, but that remains to be seen.
Either way, Tennessee basketball has enough talent, depth and experience to be impactful in the post and still be able to use that to their advantage. In spite of this transition by Barnes to play more small ball, he has still loaded up the post, so he’ll definitely have the option to go back to his old ways. Offsetting John Fulkerson and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, though, will be tricky.