KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said earlier this season that he loves this Vols’ basketball team.
So far he has loved it so much he has pulled his best interior player out of the starting lineup for a game, and benched his rising star point guard for one turnover.
Barnes obviously has a bigger plan, and today at noon Tennessee fans will get their first true indication of how close the program is to being a contender when the Vols play No. 18-ranked Purdue at noon in the Bahamas (TV: ESPN2).
“We might decide who starts right before every game,” Barnes said leading into the season, sending the message to his team that no one should get too comfortable.
Tennessee basketball is indeed under some pressure in Year Three of Barnes’ tenure to produce some sort of postseason appearance after the first two seasons proved fruitless.
Vols’ fans are ready to cheer for a winner in men’s basketball, particularly after a historically bad football season that’s on the verge of ending Saturday against Vanderbilt.
SEC Country’s Mike Griffith and WNML’s Josh Ward discuss how important it is for Tennessee basketball to assume the mantle in today’s podcast.