With the turmoil of head coach Cuonzo Martin leaving for the California Golden Bears and the arrival of Southern Mississippi‘s Donnie Tyndall and his subsequent rush to bring in recruits and transfers, the Tennessee Volunteers are not expected to have the type of upcoming season that the Vols did in 2013-14. With key pieces of the team gone in Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon and Jordan McRae, the team will have to turn to elite defender Josh Richardson.
Richardson shut down two of the top shooters in the SEC last season. Missouri‘s Jabari Brown averaged 19.9 points per game and Auburn‘s Chris Denson averaged 19.1 points per game, but in the final quarter of the season against Tennessee both players went a combined 2-for-20 from the field when Richardson was guarding them. That type of defense against one of those star players can be considered a fluke, but two in a row shows that it was Richardson’s doing and not the fault of the player.
As if shutting down two of the top players in the SEC wasn’t impressive enough, Richardson was tasked with guarding one of the most explosive players in the country during the team’s play-in game to the 2014 NCAA tournament against the Iowa Hawkeyes‘ Roy Devyn Marble. Marble averaged 17.3 points per game throughout the course of the season, but when up against the Vols and guarded mostly by Richardson, he only scored seven points while going just 3-for-15 shooting.
Richardson, although fairly underrated, is one of the top one-on-one defenders in college basketball and should only get better this season. However, the Edmonton, Okla. native showed flashes of brilliance offensively last season and must have success offensively this season if Tennessee is to even dream of making it to the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Expect big things from the senior, as he goes from just being a key member of the team to the team’s veteran leader both offensively and defensively.