NICEVILLE, FLA. — Emerald Coast Classic fans will get a rare treat during the first semifinal round game Nov. 29 with the opportunity to see perennial powers from two of the top collegiate basketball conferences in the NCAA battle on the court at The Arena when Tennessee out of the Southeastern Conference plays Florida State from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Rick Barnes was named the 2018-19 Naismith Coach of the Year after guiding Tennessee to a school-record 31 win season, the No. 1 ranking and an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance before suffering an overtime loss to Purdue.
Barnes has built the Vols into a perennial NCAA Tournament team with the squad seeking to play into March Madness for a third consecutive year. The Volunteers’ 57 total wins over the last two seasons are the most among all SEC teams. Tennessee is projected to finish fifth in the preseason 2019-20 Southeastern Conference media poll.
After losing two-time SEC player of the Year and first-team All-American Grant Williams and starting point guard Jordan Bone as early entry NBA Draft picks, along with senior forward Admiral Schofield (who also was drafted) and center Kyle Alexander, the Vols will have several holes to fill.
Senior guards Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner enter the season less than 100 points away from eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for their careers.
Turner averaged 11.0 points and 3.6 assists last year and will be a driving force at point guard after his career-best 2.5 assist/turnover ratio ranked fourth in the SEC and was the eighth best single-season mark in program history. The 2018 SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year, Turner has been named to the 2020 Bob Cousy Point Guard Award Watch List as well as earning second team preseason All-SEC honors.
An explosive and versatile scorer, Bowden was named to the preseason Jerry West Shooting Guard Award Watch List. As a top reserve, he averaged 10.6 points last season but increased his scoring output to 12.1 in SEC play. Bowden also committed only 35 turnovers in 1,002 total minutes played last year (27.8 mpg) and has made more than 50 three-pointers in each of the last two seasons.
Six-foot 7-inch freshman combo guard Josiah-Jordan James, a 2019 McDonald’s All-American from North Charleston, S.C., who averaged 29.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.3 blocked shots as a senior, headlines a list a newcomers expected to contribute immediately. He is already being projected as a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft
The 6-9 redshirt junior John Fulkerson, who ranked third on the team last year with 25 blocked shots, and 6-8 freshman Oliver Nkamhoua (Helsinki, Finland) look to fill the void along the frontline following the departures of All-American Williams (18.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) along with Schofield (16.5 ppg, 6.1 prg) to the NBA.
“I do have confidence in our team, I do,” said Barnes. “I like this group of guys, and I think they are grasping better right now. It’s been a fun group to be with and I just think it’s going to be a group that’s fun to be with as the year goes on.”
For further information on the Emerald Coast Classic, visit the tournament website: www.emeraldcoastclassic.com