DALLAS — Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes said he would approach the NCAA Tournament like he has the rest of the season, and he certainly held true to his word on Wednesday.
Barnes, asked about the inconsistent production of Kyle Alexander and Jordan Bone, didn’t hold back.
“Well, it’s the unknown,” Barnes said of the Vols’ starting post and point guard at America Airlines Center. “I mean, we don’t know.
“Those guys have been spectacular, and they’ve just gone away.”
This is no time for any players on No. 3-seed Tennessee (25-8) to pull a disappearing act — not with No. 14-seed Wright State (25-9) primed for the teams’ 12:40 p.m. (EST) tipoff on Thursday in the South Regional.
Alexander, a 6-foot-11, 220-pound junior, is most valuable with his ability to protect the rim and alter shots.
Bone, a 6-3 explosive point guard, has the ability to push tempo, distribute the ball effectively and get to the rim.
Both have proven capable of producing game-changing plays and spurts, and as such could be considered X-Factors.
Barnes knows that, so his pointed criticism at the media session on Wednesday was likely calculated.
Former Vols’ star-turned SEC Network analyst Dane Bradshaw said one of the keys to this season has been Barnes’ ability to keep the players grounded, even amid their great success.
Barnes has harped on the need for consistency throughout the season.
Alexander averages 5.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, with nearly as many games without any field goals (6) as double-figure scoring games (7).
Tennessee is 6-2 when Alexander has scored 10 or more points.
Still, Barnes likes the intangibles and defense Alexander has brought to the floor.
“They (Alexander and Bone) are not going to play perfect every night, but they key word is consistency,” Barnes said, “where even on nights when they don’t shoot well, they are impacting winning other ways, and Kyle normally does that.”
Bone, who averages 7.3 points and 3.6 assists per game, scored in double figures at the SEC Tournament in back-to-back games for the first time since the opening two games of the conference season.
Barnes, however, is not yet content with the talented sophomore guard from Nashville.
“Jordan Bone, he’s talented, but he’s got to be able to affect the game when he’s not shooting the ball well,” Barnes said. “Whether it’s with his defense, moving the ball, passing the ball.”
The Vols are 10-3 in Bone’s career when he dishes out at least 5 assists.
Bone leads the starters in the “plus-minus” category, an indication of the team’s efficiency with him on the floor. Tennessee has outscored opponents by 10.34 points per 40 minutes Bone has been on the floor this season.
Tennessee Vol Network color analyst Bert Bertelkamp breaks down keys
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Wednesday, March 14, 2018
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