RTB’s Ode to the 2020 Bubble Miami Heat

2020 has been a year unlike any in modern history. That statement rings true in reference to the world of basketball as well.

The idea of “the bubble” seemed preposterous when the players made their way to Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando on July 7th, but ultimately the proposition has been wildly successful. There have been zero positive COVID-19 tests in two months, with only four teams left before a champion is crowned.

The Cinderella of the ball, if you will, has been the young Miami Heat. Lead by free agent signee Jimmy Butler, the Heat have punked Indiana and number one seed Milwaukee on their way to a 2-1 series lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I choose to write this now because I want to remember these guys just as they are in this moment.

20 year old Tyler Herro has meshed with this squad unimaginably well, and if the 2019 Draft had a redo, I have a feeling Mr. Herro doesn’t slide to the 13th pick. Homeboy is a bucket with a handle, size, and bounce. Not to mention coming from a Calipari system at Kentucky that empowers their players not to shy away from good looks.

Bam Adebayo is coming off his first All-Star selection and is the glue that holds this whole deal together. A walking double-double, Bam saved game one against the Celtics with a historic block of Jayson Tatum at the rim with no time remaining. Nicknamed after Bamm-Bamm Rubble from the Flintstones, his playstyle is pretty much exactly what you’d imagine.

Duncan Robinson looks like a guy one would hoop with at the local Y, until you take a closer look. This guy has a hairpin trigger for a release and good length to switch everything but the center on the floor. I expect this guy to lead the NBA in three point percentage in a season before his career is done. He’s that good.

Jimmy Butler brings the attitude that a young, impressionable, team like Miami absolutely has to have. Think Johnny Lawrence from Cobra Kai standing in front of a group of kids, preparing to teach them Karate with Guns & Roses bumpin’. That is Jimmy Butler in the Miami Heat locker room.

The edge these guys play with, lead by NBA champion head coach Erik Spoelstra, is intoxicating. There’s no arguing calls with the stripes, only with the opposing team, met by straight aggression from the tip to final buzzer.

Oh, not to mention, the culture is anchored by GM, and also hall of fame coach, Pat Riley. Veteran presences from Goran Dragic, Andre Igoudala, and Jae Crowder solidify this team as solid. It is a strange concoction, but when the Heat are firing on all cylinders, it is a site for sore eyes in a ISO riddled game, that’s filled with missed threes.

I don’t know if Miami can finish Boston off and advance to the Finals, and I really don’t know if Miami has the talent to challenge LeBron James & Anthony Davis if they get there. But, what I do know is, in the words of the great Jim Carrey from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, “I can’t see anything I don’t like about.”

How the Absence of Sports Has Helped the Fight for Equality

Black people in the United Sates made up 24 percent of the 1,029 police killings in 2019, despite only contributing 13 percent to the entire population of the country. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, while simultaneously being statistically less likely of being armed with a weapon.

8 of the 100 largest police departments in the United States killed black men at a higher clip than the U.S. murder rate in 2018. The most astonishing statistic though, 99% of police killings from 2013-19 have resulted in officers not being charged with crimes.

Would I have cared about any of this if LeBron and Giannis were strapping up for Game 5 of the Finals tonight? Would I care that Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department murdered George Floyd by compression of his neck and back if the Braves had a double-header with the Phillies today?

I could patronize my readers, pat my own ego and give you an explanation about how I would’ve, but the answer is no. I absolutely wouldn’t have, and I’ll go out on a limb here and say most of the young men in my demographic wouldn’t have either.

Quarantine has been a tough time for the world, but it has provided us a world with less distractions. White Americans pack stadiums across the country every year, pay hundreds of dollars for tickets to see predominately African American teams play a game both the player and viewer love. All for the few hours of escaping reality. Yet, they vilify their brothers. Even fear them when sharing the sidewalk when they return to the real world the very next day.

It starts with every single one of us, but White America needs to stand up and use our voice now more than ever. It is clear that we can make a difference if we band together with our local black communities and use our strength to fight for something bigger than ourselves. To help people who don’t feel protected by men & women who swore to keep a watchful eye over their communities, not leave their streets running with blood.

So, when the NBA re-tips in July, or if Major League Baseball ever figures out how to pay their players, remember, some things are bigger than boy’s games.

Statistics provided by https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

Donations can be made to the George Floyd Memorial Fund here

RTB COVID-19 Special: 10 Movies Guaranteed to Entertain During Quarantine

1. GoldenEye (1995)

This is the quintessential spy film. GoldenEye is complete and utter explosion based blasphemy from beginning to end and I just don’t care.

This take on James Bond represents an Agent Cody Banks for adults. The plot is a bit derivative with the Russia vs USA narrative, but Pierce Brosnan smashing through a brick wall in a stolen Russian tank makes up for all of that. Bond can be seen driving a sweet Aston Martin DB5 (now valued at 2.6 million dollars) while chasing down one of the antagonists, who’s driving a red Ferrari F355 GTS. Bond films always bring the heat in terms of car quality, but these two play off each other so well early in the film.

GoldenEye isn’t going to change your life, but it will take you back to a simpler time. A time of playing GoldenEye the video game on N64.

*Also, I would highly suggest watching Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery before or after viewing this film. The two pair together like Stockton & Malone.

2. Semi-Pro (2008)

This is a prime example of getting Will Ferrell in front of the camera and just letting the guy go.

Semi-Pro is the story of Jackie Moon. Owner, Coach, and starting power forward for the Flint Tropics. Moon is on a quest to keep the struggling Tropics afloat and have them be apart of the pending merger between the ABA & NBA.

The movie provides hearty laughs throughout and quietly boasts a stellar cast with co-star roles for Andre 3000, Woody Harrelson, Maura Tierney, and Will Arnett. This is also a testament to what I believe will go down as the golden era of Will Ferrell’s career. Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, and this film were all released within ONE YEAR of each other.

Four dangerously quotable films within such a short time should be illegal.

3. GoodFellas (1990)

Legendary director Martin Scorsese had to make an appearance on this list at some point, right? It’s a classic mob story with the usual suspects in Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci.

I don’t know what it is about these mob flicks that’s so intriguing. Maybe its the amount of cash these guys throw around, the nice suits, the emphasis on family, the needless murdering, or the fact that it’s all based on a true story. But this film will have you locked in from Ray’s opening monologue.

The film also received six Oscar nods, with Joe Pesci winning the Academy Award for best supporting actor. Follow the true story of Henry Hill as he navigates mob life and the ever growing pressure of getting caught, or even worse, killed.

P.S. Ray Liotta’s laugh with stick with your days.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman will be undefeated for many years to come in my eyes. Morgan Freeman is such a nice presence as Lucius Fox and there couldn’t be a better Alfred than Michael Caine with that beautiful Cockney accent.

The wonderful thing about The Dark Knight is the villain is even more compelling than the superhero. Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker is hypnotizing from the jump, portraying Gotham’s most popular villain in a completely new light. His performance is completely deserving of his posthumous academy award, following his tragic death shortly before the film’s release.

The back and forth between Ledger and Christian Bale is incredible. The directing and writing portray a realist view of Bruce Wayne’s struggles. Ya’ know, other than fighting crime in a bat suit.

*If you’ve got the time, which we all do right now, go watch 10 Things I Hate About You in honor of Heath as well. “I hate it when you’re not around, and the fact that you didn’t call. But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.” ICONIC.

5. Rounders (1998)

Rounders is the story of law student, Mike McDermott, who dreams of winning the World Series of Poker someday. He quickly finds himself in trouble when he loses his entire life savings on a single hand of no limit texas hold em’ at an underground casino in New York City.

McDermott is played by a late 90’s blonde Matt Damon which is always entertaining. His not so wise best friend, Worm, is played by Edward Norton who rocks in almost anything he’s in.

McDermott must figure out how to get his cash back, while simultaneously protecting Worm from the streets after his release from prison.

The only problem with this film is we haven’t received a sequel yet. This movie ignited a poker renaissance in America from what I’m told. And I can recall watching this movie with my dad at a young age while he taught me the game.

A great tale of loving and losing mixed with a dash of redemption.

6. Her (2013)

I saw this film in theaters with my high school girlfriend and I remember how amazing it was to see someone going through all the stages of falling in love onscreen. But the catch is, it’s with an artificial intelligence system resembling everything a human being is, other than actual physical form.

I’m now a little more battered and beaten in the ways of love with it being seven years since the film’s release. And when I re-watched for the purpose of this list, the dark, lonely moments that Theodore encounters throughout the film are more harrowing now than ever.

Joaquin Phoenix is incredible and the film does such a good job of hitting home and moving one’s emotions. All while placing the viewer in a futuristic setting one doesn’t fully understand.

The constant reminder that nothing lasts forever reigns supreme, as well as the human struggle to feel accepted.

Scarlett Johansson is also riveting as the voice of Samantha.

7. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

This film is incredibly moving for people around my age (22) because it explores the struggles of finding yourself and the ever eluding idea of “happiness.”

Johnny Depp sends in one of the best performances of his career as Gilbert Grape. Grape is weighed down by how his life has turned out thus far, and the constant pressure of being the man of the household at such a young age. His mother is extremely obese and cannot move about, and his brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mentally challenged and constantly getting into mischief that Gilbert must clean up after. But his love for his big brother is undying. Gilbert wants to get out of the small town, but deep down knows he can’t turn his back on family.

I love this flick because there is no huge conflict and obvious resolution. The mundane parts of growing up in a small town and being shackled to it shine throughout the picture.

One also gets a good idea of how talented Leo was/is, even at such a young age.

8. Get Him to the Greek (2010)

Jonah Hill and Russell Brand band together for a pretty entertaining raunchy comedy in Get Him to the Greek. Jonah Hill’s character is presented with the task of retrieving a drug abusing rockstar from London, and transporting him to the Greek Theater in California for an anniversary show.

Brand builds on his Aldous Snow rockstar character first introduced in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). The film follows Snow and Aaron Green (Hill) as they bang heads, and eventually grow a lasting friendship on their drug and alcohol fueled quest that takes a number of twists and turns.

The live shots of Brand’s performances in the film are quite impressive. Russell also recorded an entire album of original songs from Snow’s make believe band “Infant Sorrow.” The album is actually worth listening to. It’s pretty good quality wise and makes the film sit nicely after finishing.

PDiddy also plays a vital role in the film. Which is honestly reason enough to tune in.

9. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Adapted from iconic writer Tennessee Williams’ play from 1947, A Streetcar Named Desire may be the creme de la creme of this list.

Blanche (Vivien Leigh) moves in with her sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), and new brother in law Stanley (Marlon Brando) in New Orleans. Throughout the entire film, Blanche is desperately trying to hide her crumbling mental state and dark past. Stanley suspects the worst from the moment she walks in the door and berates her until all truths are revealed, for better or worse. All while risking his young relationship with his new wife.

A young Marlon Brando dominates the screen as Stanley, kicking off a huge career for the actor. This film also has one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history with the yelling of “STELLAAAAA” by Brando after an emotional fight, which I will definitely link.

Culture yourself a bit and travel back in time with this one. I promise it will not disappoint.

10. The Notebook (2004)

I figured what we needed to round off this list was a good old fashioned tear-jerking love story. Whether you’re quarantined in with your significant other, or by yourself dreaming of meeting “the one”, one of the most quoted movies of all time will provide you with that warm fuzzy feeling.

Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdams star in this story of two star crossed lovers who fall in love in the 1940’s. Their differences in the social hierarchy of the time drive the two apart, only to have the world miraculously drive them back together.

Yes, it’s over the top. Yes, it’s dramatic as all get out. But what is life without love? It rages inside all of us without warning, it is instinctual. Buy in for two hours and three minutes and I can almost guarantee you’ll finish this film in tears.

The Notebook has become a cult classic and it is worth watching at least once. “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.”

If you watch all these films, I promise you’ll feel every emotion in the book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll introspect about your own life and feelings. But most importantly, you’ll be able to ease your mind and burn a few hours in these trying times. I hope this list finds you all in good health and happy watching.

Remembering the life and legacy of Kobe Bean Bryant

With the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets selected an unproven 18 year old guard from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania. After a draft night trade, Kobe Bryant found his forever home as a dominant two-way guard in the form of the Los Angeles Lakers.

I speak for basketball fans everywhere when I say this is a black day. Especially since it comes only hours after LeBron James surpassed Kobe for third on the all time scoring list, a touching moment watched by fans everywhere between two long time friends. And only a few weeks since the passing of former groundbreaking commissioner David Stern.

Kobe truly represented the first superstar of my generation. I distinctly remember watching the 2010 Finals in awe at his nonstop motor and insatiable will to win. As a thirteen old kid I had heard the tales of Michael Jordan, but this was the first live example I had of an ice cold killer who would stop at nothing to overcome the challenges of his opponent.

Kobe Bryant’s legacy as a player cannot be understated. 20 years with one team is a feat to be proud of in its own right, but to fill Magic Johnson’s shoes and bring five championships back to Staples Center is the feat of a legend. Bryant averaged 25.0 PPG in his career for a total of 33,643 points. Stats seem so irrelevant right now but it’s important to understand the quality of his career.

Kobe’s most impressive accomplishment may come in the form of the example he set as a father. After his retirement, Kobe didn’t watch much NBA basketball. Until his daughter Gianna approached him and asked if they could begin watching together. Kobe responded by signing up for League Pass and the two would watch nightly.

Bryant also began coaching his daughter and gleamed at the very mention of the team of girls that had filled the new basketball void in his life. Gianna sadly also passed today along side her father in the tragic helicopter crash at the age of 13. Our last image of Gianna and Kobe is courtside at Staples Center breaking down the game and conversing with legends.

The game of basketball was badly hurt by his retiring in 2016, but it is absolutely devastated by his untimely death today at 41 years old. He leaves a legacy of hard work, dedication, and the constant reminder to have the mamba mentality.

Tennessee erases a 13 point deficit in the final minutes to down Indiana

The scoreboard read 22-9 in favor of Indiana with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. The Vols took over at their own 29 yard-line without recording a touchdown all evening. Then, everything seemed to change. UT became the first FBS opponent all season to overcome a thirteen point deficit in such a small amount of time. The first in 472 attempts.

Struggling UT QB, Jarrett Guarantano, used a couple of check downs to Eric Gray to boost the Vols to midfield quickly. He then found Jauan Jennings on a back shoulder throw to take Tennessee right outside of the red zone. Following a couple penalties and runs from Eric Gray, Quavaris Crouch was able to punch it in from the one to bring UT within one score with 4:23 left on the clock.

The play of the game came on an unexpected onside kick directly after Crouch’s touchdown. Tennessee’s kick off specialist, Paxton Brooks, tipped the ball off the tee to an awaiting Eric Gray ten yards down the field to give Tennessee possession with 4:20 left in the ballgame at midfield.

Guarantano found Josh Palmer on the first play after the onside kick for a huge gain, made even more profitable by a 15 yard facemask penalty used to tackle Palmer. After an incompletion, UT’s MVP Eric Gray burst through the Hoosier defense for a 16 yard touchdown to push Tennessee out front 23-22. The Vols scored 14 points in under 30 seconds to shock everyone in Jacksonville, Florida with 3:52 left on the clock.

Indiana went deep on the first play to put themselves in borderline field goal range immediately. Hoosier QB, Peyton Ramsey, took a sack the next play to take them out of range, then made an astounding backyard football play to bring the red & white right back in on third down. IU’s kicker, Logan Justus, proceeded to miss a 52 yard field goal that would ultimately end the Hoosier’s hopes of defeating a SEC opponent.

The game was one of the ugliest Tennessee has played all year. With, once again, quarterback play being the biggest topic of conversation following the win. Guarantano finished the game 18/31 for 221 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He stepped up later on to lead the two touchdown drives, but UT never should have been in that situation to begin with. Stagnant offense has plagued Tennessee all year, and with an offensive coordinator making over a million dollars a year, that’s inexcusable.

The defense anchored the team, as usual, only allowing 303 total yards of offense on the day while also forcing an interception. The secondary is finally getting to a point of consistency, and the linebacker core has been stellar all season. The defensive line had success getting pressure with four all evening rounding out a solid unit. Tennessee should be a stout defense heading into the 2020 campaign spearheaded by their head coach’s mentality.

An 8-5 season was almost certainly out of the picture after week one & two losses to Georgia State & BYU, but this team showed great poise and determination by bouncing back to salvage this season. Jeremy Pruitt is laying a foundation of grit and hard work in Knoxville and the fan base seems to be responding. The stadium was 80% orange and white on Thursday evening. He’s also doing a great job of restocking the cupboard with huge additions on the recruiting trail with the 21st ranked class nationally.

Relying on history, no one really knows how good UT will be next season. The past shows us the year before really has no correlation to what Tennessee will bring to the table the next September. But, with that being said, Pruitt is as pure of a football coach that the program has had since Phillip Fulmer. The team has goals to return to prominence. That journey continues in eight months.

NBA Quarter Season Recap

The NBA season is roughly a quarter of the way finished and it has more than lived up to the hype. Duos throughout the league have banded together to provide the most balanced play since LeBron’s return to Cleveland. The Bucks and Lakers lead the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, while both sporting 22-3 records.

Future Hall of Famer, LeBron James, is having one of his best campaigns to date in his 17th season. He’s averaging 25.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 10.8 assists a game. The other half of LA’s dynamic duo, Anthony Davis, is having a monumental season as well while averaging 27.2 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. The Lakers have catapulted themselves into title consideration by their early performance thus far.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is leading the surging Bucks while averaging 30.9 points on 56% shooting while pulling down 13.2 rebounds a game. He’s also showing a lot of progression in his game while shooting the three ball at a higher volume and percentage. His athleticism is still off the charts and he still dominates the paint like Shaq. This guy’s ceiling is nonexistent, and as usual, his play will directly correlate with how far this team will go.

The Los Angeles Clippers have the most interesting team in the NBA while checking in at second in the West. Kawhi Leonard & Paul George are the most talented two way wings in the league and they’re playing on the same team. The Clips also have an elite defensive point guard in Pat Beverly, as well as a dog in the paint in Montrezl Harrel. And who can forget perennial sixth man candidate, Lou Williams? The Clips are rocking a 19-7 record which is good for second in the West. A Western Conference Finals match-up between the two LA teams is something fans everywhere are salivating for.

James Harden is once again setting the league on fire with his outrageous level of scoring with the Houston Rockets. Harden is averaging 38.7 points a game along with 7.5 assists. The addition of Russell Westbrook has made Houston an extremely formidable opponent to anyone in a seven game series. While Clint Capella and the rest of Houston’s core is back for another run at a championship. We’ll see if Mike D’Antoni’s system can finally break through. Houston is fourth in the West with a 16-8 record.

Second year wing, Luka Doncic, is averaging near a triple double and has the Mavericks playing above their ceiling. Dallas is third in the West with a 16-7 record right above Houston. The addition of Kristaps Porzingis has made the Mavs a team of young unicorns, who if they play to their potential, can be a problem to any opponent any time. The games between the Mavs & Lakers this season have been classics and represent another series fans of the league would love to see.

The Eastern Conference feels like a league of well balanced teams. The big surprise is the Miami Heat who have a core of young guys complimented by Jimmy Butler & possible Rookie of the Year, Tyler Herro. Miami is 18-6 which is good for second in the East. The biggest question for the Heat is if they can keep this level of play up. Erik Spoelstra is a great coach and I would be willing to bet they’ll make noise in the playoffs.

The top five seeds in both conferences are separated by no more than six games. The NBA starts slow most years, in terms of interest, with football still in full swing when the season tips off. But the foundation is being set for an absolutely incredible year. Duos across the league are tuning up their teams for a wide open championship run, and the Larry O’ Brien trophy is anyone’s to take.

UT finishes the regular season 7-5 after beating Vanderbilt

In a torrential downpour Saturday afternoon, Tennessee added another victory to the ledger by defeating Vandy 28-10. Eric Gray ran rampant against the commodores to the tune of 247 yards on the ground, as well as adding three touchdowns. After an 0-2 start, finishing 7-5 on the year is a huge win for the rebuilding Volunteers.

Both teams were required to rely on their run game with how awful the weather turned out to be, and Tennessee’s offensive and defensive lines did their job. UT rushed for 298 yards as a team, with Gray accounting for 247. Which was good enough to catapult him into the top five for single game rushing yards in Tennessee history. It would be shocking if he isn’t the feature back in the bowl game and moving forward into next season.

Vanderbilt was only able to muster 112 yards on the ground while throwing for 169. Tennessee also recorded multiple sacks on the evening. The Vols were clearly the more talented team and used a big second quarter to build an advantage they refused to relinquish.

The game was an exchange of punts other than two huge runs from Gray. Including a 94 yard run that electrified the 87,000 fans who stood tough through the rain. Jarrett Guarantano managed the game well even though his line wasn’t as pretty. He finished by going 6/17 for 120 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

UT is projected to be a participant in the Outback Bowl against Minnesota on New Years Day. This game will serve as a huge opportunity for Tennessee to announce that the rebuild of the long struggling football program is becoming successful. Which is absolutely insane considering the two upset losses to Georgia State & BYU that kicked off this year’s campaign.

UT will use the extra practices to their advantage as they’ll get to stay together for another month. It also means that seniors Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Daniel Bituli, and Darrel Taylor haven’t seen their last game in Orange & White. An eight win season seemed absolutely unachievable a few months ago. Now, the sky is the limit and the excitement for next season is immeasurable.

#17 Tennessee uses dominant team defense to slide by UTC 58-46

It could of just been an off night, or maybe the orange & white have been drinking a bit of the kool-aid. Regardless, Monday night wasn’t the best showing against a lesser opponent. But in the end, UT used their calling card, team defense, to shut down the Mocs and advance to 5-0 on the season.

The Vols had multiple stints in the game in which they couldn’t buy a basket. Two five minute spurts found the home team field goal-less. The usual team chemistry and willingness to make the extra pass wasn’t apparent early, and the rust on the offensive side of the ball never really wore off.

The good news for Tennessee is that their leaders picked up the slack when the going got tough. Jordan Bowden recorded his first double-double as a Vol with 13 points and 12 rebounds on 39 minutes played. Lamonte Turner continued distributing the basketball at a high level with 12 assists in 35 minutes. Turner was leading the SEC with 8.5 assists a game going into Monday’s match-up, I don’t think that’ll be changing anytime soon. He also led the team in scoring with 17 points on the night.

John Fulkerson was a bright spot in the rugged second half for the Vols. He scored all 14 of his points in the second period while pulling down four boards on the evening. His offensive post game is taking strides and he will be relied on all season to fill a void of size in this lineup. A lot of John’s finest moments come as the acting glue guy for UT. His defensive rotations and ability to erase shots make him so important for this team.

Yves Pons finally cooled off in terms of scoring, but his athletic presence was still felt all night with pungent blocks and 4 strong rebounds. It’s also worth noting that newcomer, Josiah-Jordan James, hit double figure rebounds for the second consecutive game. He finished with 11 rebounds while only logging 23 minutes of action. James has an incredible amount of potential with his length, on ball defense, and ball handling ability. With vet, Lamonte Turner, dominating ball handling duties, James seems to be in between roles a bit. I expect he’ll take huge strides in the off season and be a huge part of the 2020 campaign.

The ability to get production out of the front court will dictate how successful this 2019-20 team will be. It’s extremely early, but I could see this team being as high as a four seed in the NCAA tournament if they play up to their potential. Any injuries of big minute players would be absolutely detrimental to this team’s cause. Durability will be an important factor to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Tennessee eyes a match-up with Florida State on Friday in the Emerald Coast Classic. The Seminoles are 5-1 with their only loss coming to Pitt in the first game of their season. Their most notable win on the season is against in-state rival Florida a few short weeks ago. This will be Tennessee’s second big test of the year, following a dominant win over #20 Washington in Toronto. Size and ability to be effective in the paint will decide who wins this game.

Tennessee hopes to keep up their winning ways as they continue to rise up the AP poll. The team also hopes to keep up their home winning streak, which was extended to 30 games with the victory over the Mocs. Rick Barnes has a lot to iron out in film before Friday, but a win is a win.

Turner and Bowden both reach 1,000 points as UT dominates Alabama State

Tennessee defeated Alabama State Wednesday night by the score of 76-41. Seniors, Jordan Bowden & Lamonte Turner, became the 51st & 52nd players in UT basketball history to reach the 1,000 point club as the Vols dominated the Hornets from the tip.

The Vols were able to get the majority of the bench on the floor for meaningful minutes in the second half. And the young guys provided valuable evidence that, with the addition of three top 40 recruits next year, there is much to be excited about in the future.

Knoxville native, Drew Pember, was the most exciting youngin’ to hit the hardwood for the orange & white as he provided great spark as a forward-wing hybrid. He crashed the glass effectively, especially on the offensive side, finishing with 8 points and 5 boards on the night in eight minutes played. His size and ability to move will have him finding more & more minutes in this lineup devoid of a ton of size.

Davonte Gaines & Olivier Nkamhoua provided valuable efforts off the bench as both recorded 6 boards on the evening. Gaines leaked out after a UT steal and showed a little of his athleticism while throwing down a big slam in transition. Nkamhoua played solid defense and showed a few nice post moves, finishing the night with 8 points.

John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, and Josiah Jordan James provided solid games while playing second fiddle to Bowden & Turner for the evening. James finished with a game high 12 rebounds while providing for others all night to the tune of 5 assists. Yves showed his athleticism once again with 11 points and a highlight reel alley-oop slam early in the second half. It was just another day at the office for Fulkerson as he finished with 10 points and 5 boards while holding down the post.

Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden both helped cement their legacies as both surpassed the 1,000 point mark with baskets from the floor. Bowden finished with 16 points on the night, while being lethal from three as usual. Turner finished the evening with 13 points and 6 assists. His average of 9.3 assists a game will take a small hit but will most certainly still be good for best in the SEC. At this point, it’s safe to say these guys are the definitive leaders.

This game was never in question, but these tuneup games always provide valuable insight on the mindset and quality of a team’s bench. Tennessee looks to be very focused early on and it seems like Rick Barnes has officially built a program here in Knoxville. Every night this team hits the floor there is an expectation of quality basketball being played and the team constantly lives up to that.

The media voted Tennessee to finish fifth in the talented SEC. But after UT’s gutsy win over #20 Washington, and dominating lesser opponents, I’m feeling more and more confident this team will surprise some people.

The Vols look forward to a match-up with UTC on Monday.

Tennessee’s vets use experience to fuel comfortable team win over #20 Washington

Lamonte Turner & Jordan Bowden lead the way on Saturday afternoon as the Vols defeated #20 ranked Washington in Toronto 75-62. UT jumped out to a 16-7 lead early in the first half and never looked back.

Bowden had 16 of his 18 points in the first half while firing jumpers with success all around the arch. Turner had an extraordinary game in his own right, finishing with 16 points, 7 boards, and 8 assists. Which was impressive enough to be named the player of the game for the James Naismith Classic.

Tennessee played a tight rotation throughout the night with only seven players making it into the box score. Freshman Olivier Nkamhoua provided a nice defensive spurt off the bench when John Fulkerson needed a break. The other four Tennessee starters played 35 minutes or more which is absolutely insane in terms of conditioning.

With that being said, UT was sharper than they’ve been all season playing this tight knit group. Yves Pons continues to absolutely dazzle with his development. His athleticism is now being matched with a lovely lefty shooting touch that is extremely consistent. He punished Washington all night as the free throw line extended cutter against the 2-3 zone. He also met Jay Z’s nephew, Nahziah Carter, at the rim for a huge blocked dunk in classic Yves fashion in the first half.

Vet John Fulkerson banged with Washington’s big men in the paint and had success. He finished the game with 14 points and 6 boards in 29 minutes played. His glue guy mentality cannot be put into numerical value, but he really plays the role of Draymond Green for this team. It’s not always pretty, but it sure is effective. He looks to be the guy stepping up as UT is still devoid of a true center.

Josiah Jordan James continues to become comfortable in the orange & white and showed flashes of a really special talent in Scotiabank Arena. He finished with only 9 points, but they were all big league moves. With one bucket being a catch and shoot three, while another was a pull up off the dribble. He also recorded a nice dunk after UT was able to break down Washington’s press look. James could become a really special player for this Volunteer team in time.

It felt like a big time game from the tip, and it was evident that Tennessee’s guys were just used to being there. Just another day in the office, no big deal. Lamonte Turner controlled the pace of the game the entire night, hypnotizing the Huskies into playing at UT’s pace. Bowden provided the Chris Lofton mentality of “you better not leave me open” while scoring at will.

I’ve written this at least five times it feels like now, but these guys are the heart & soul of this team. On Saturday night, Tennessee looked like they could compete with anybody in the country with Rick Barnes at the helm and the two seniors keeping everyone in check.

Tennessee has two tune-up games against Alabama State & UTC before a big match-up with Florida State on November 29th. The Seminoles have already defeated preseason top 10 team Florida earlier in the season, so one could expect a battle of power five conference schools.

UT is rounding into form early on in the season. With the loss of three key starters to the NBA following last season, many weren’t sure what to expect from this team. It feels as if there is a massive chip on this team’s shoulders to prove they’re still an elite college basketball team. Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t count these guys out. And I don’t think any inexperienced team in the country wants to play Tennessee..