Tennessee’s Rick Barnes met with the media on Monday morning to discuss how the offseason has gone for his team during these trying times and also why the NCAA Tournament must happen.
Barnes gave his opinion of the potential of March Madness happening “We’ve got to play an NCAA Tournament. We’ve got to play it. If we don’t, it’s going to make it almost impossible for a lot of schools. I’m not talking about the Power Five. The money that some schools get, it might be $300,000, which is a lot of money for a lot of people. If they go two years without it—I just know we’ve got to have an NCAA Tournament some way, somehow. You can’t have an NCAA Tournament without having some kind of regular season. What we have told our guys is what I’m telling you: I think we’re going to play basketball. I think we’re going to play on time.”
Santiago Vescovi was the talk of the town last season, especially making his first-ever start in college against LSU, 72 hours after getting off a plane. So it didn’t catch anyone off guard when he spoke highly of his progress.
Barnes added “in some ways, he probably had the best summer, because he was able to play. He’s back. He’s in better shape. He looks leaner. We’ve watched him work out and play. I think he’s improved, but the biggest thing a year ago was that he never really had the chance to get himself in the kind of shape that he is now and the kind of shape he will be in by the time we get ready to kick it off. He’s a smart player and understands his game. Everybody likes to play with him. We’ve watched him play a little bit. He’s pretty sharp right now because of what I think he did while he was back home playing.”
If you’re a Tennessee fan, you have to be excited about the upcoming season for John Fulkerson, who’s had many big moments for this Vols basketball team. Rick Barnes said, “for some reason, toward the end of February, the light went off where he became a different person. His approach really changed. I actually asked him about it a couple of weeks ago, ‘John how much did that injury in your freshman year set you back?’ He said, ‘A lot more than I thought.’ I could never understand why he was holding back, but I think with the way he finished and if we had another month to the season, I’m not so sure he wouldn’t have been Player of the Year in the league.”
Barnes was very complimentary of the freshmen group, especially Jaden Springer. But, Barnes added that Springer, along with other freshmen needed to get their conditioning up to speed. Barnes said “There’s no doubt it is conditioning. It’s the same thing for Keon (Johnson) and Corey (Walker), it’s all conditioning. They have got to get themselves to a point where they understand what conditioning really means. Jaden understands what he’s doing and what he’s good at. He knows where to go and what he needs to get done. He’s a worker too. When I say worker, I think you guys know that is what our culture is built on. He’s a guy that has to get better at conditioning. Once he does, that’s going to take him to a whole other level.”
If we can get to basketball season, there’s no doubt this squad is going to be a lot to handle for opponents. To be honest, this season can’t get here quick enough.
All Video and Images courtesy of Tennessee Athletic Communications