The Tennessee Volunteers come away 2 -1 from the Puerto Rico Tipoff, finishing in third place. A respectable finish after being destroyed by Oklahoma State (who went on to defeat #6 North Carolina State in the finals) in the Semi-finals. Tennessee should not be discouraged by the early season loss, because their young players got much needed experience and they will get back one of their best players in Jeronne Maymon later in the season.
Jarnell Stokes’ impressive performance over the UMass Minutemen on Sunday in the Third Place game points to why he is one of the best players in the SEC, and possibly the NCAA. He played like a top ten NBA pick, dominating in the paint and coming away with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Tennessee looks dangerous when he plays well. Stokes will provide a problem for many of the top teams in the SEC.
Tennessee will be looking forward to the return of Jeronne Maymon, a transfer from Marquette who dominated down low last season. Maymon, paired with Stokes, will control the paint. Another good sign for Tennessee was the play of Freshman Point Guard Armani Moore who looked strong coming in as a backup throughout the tournament; a position that Tennessee has the least depth.
Tennessee has a lot of young talent that needed games against some tough opposition and they received that in this tournament. It was disappointing not to see Tennessee play a talented North Carolina State squad who they matched up well against, but there will be plenty of opportunities to beat top ranked teams later on in the season. Expect this team to only get better as the season goes along and the early season loss should be an important source for motivation.