NCAA BK

Vols have the pieces for a Final Four puzzle

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 
We're not going with a typical, run-of-the-mill top 25 rundown each day. Instead, we'll cut to the chase and tell you who will be left standing at the end of the season in the Elite Eight.

2009-10 preview

Roy Halladay Can't wait for the college hoops season to start? We get you ready for 2009-10 with our preseason guide.
We've hit on the first seven in no particular order — and this one is No. 8. Sunday we'll unveil my complete bracket just before the start of the season on Nov. 9. I had the championship game right last year, but incorrectly picked Michigan State to beat North Carolina. I have a good feeling about my bracket this time around.

TENNESSEE

The Vols became a legitimate Final Four contender the day Tyler Smith opted to return to school.
With Smith and practically everyone else in Bruce Pearl's rotation from a year ago back in the fold, Tennessee will have the talent and depth to compete with just about anyone. Despite all of the attention in the SEC focused on Kentucky, the Vols certainly have enough talent to make a Final Four run.

Why

1. Experience: Pearl has his top seven guys back in the fold from a team that won 21 games last season. All five starters return. 2. Versatility The Vols have talented guards, wings and big men. They can go big with Wayne Chism and Brian Williams or have the ability to play smaller with Smith at power forward, Scotty Hopson at the three and J.P. Prince at shooting guard. 3. Maze and Hopson: Point guard Bobby Maze and Hopson, a sophomore, now have a year in the Vols' system and should be far more comfortable. Maze was passive at times last season, while Hopson was inconsistent.

Why not

1. Depth: It went from a strength to potentially a weakness after Emmanuel Negedu's heart issues ended his career and Josh Tabb was kicked off the team. The Vols are still eight deep, but they can't sustain an injury quite as easily now. 2. Perimeter shooting: The Vols aren't exactly deadly from the perimeter. Hopson was their top long-range threat last season at 36 percent from beyond the arc, and Cameron Tatum was next at 32 percent. 3. Defense: At times, this same unit was abysmal on the defensive end last season. Pearl will need to get these guys to buy into defending as much as putting points on the board.

Key player

Bobby Maze: He needs to become one of the top point guards in the league if the Vols are to take the next step and get to the Final Four. Maze is certainly talented and has the confidence — he just needs to put it all together.

Don't sleep on...

Scotty Hopson: He averaged a shade less than 10 points as a freshman, but expect him to make a significant jump this season. He's exceptionally talented on the offensive end.
Tagged: Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Youngstown State, Colorado State

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