1. Who joins the big three in the rotation?
Zakai Zeigler, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi are the big three. However, they could occupy the one through three spots on the roster, so Rick Barnes’ job is to figure out the rotation. The competition comes down to Tyreke Key, Jahmai Mashack, B.J. Edwards and D.J. Jefferson.
Mashack and Jefferson will be in competition to back up the wing spot. Edwards and Key will be fighting for the backup point guard spot. All four will be in competition to back up the two guard spot. There are other factors in this rotation, though, leading to our next to questions.
2. How healthy is Tyreke Key?
Tennessee basketball likely wouldn’t have added Tyreke Key if it seemed likely he wouldn’t be able to go, but nothing’s a guarantee. Key hasn’t been at 100 percent in over two years at this point, and he missed all of last year, so there is a lot of rust he needs to shake off.
Beyond the rust, it’s hard to know if he fully recovered. You never know about that with a surgery until game time. Rick Barnes obviously expects to use him a lot in the rotation, but part of the question as to who will join the big three revolves around Key’s health.
3. Will Josiah-Jordan James stay in the backcourt?
Here is where the Vols could have all four players we mentioned part of the rotation. What if they move Josiah-Jordan James to the four again, like they did last year? Barnes did see a lot of success playing small ball, and James and Julian Phillips alternating may be a thought.
On the other side, though, could Phillips move to the three? That would actually limit spots, as James would then take the two while Vescovi takes the one. With Olivier Nkamhoua back, Barnes could do that and choose to play big. Tennessee basketball has had success with such a strategy in the past, so it’s possible.