By: Aaron Gibson
Junior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call in Show
According to ESPN data, the Vols currently possess the fourth-best percentage (following Houston, Purdue, and Arizona) to win the NCAA Championship at 4.3%. It's no secret that the Vols boast an exceptionally deep roster this year, from top to bottom. With the perfect blend of seasoned veterans, potent transfers, and high-potential freshmen, this team has the chance to be the best Tennessee basketball team of Barnes' tenure and possibly the greatest in the program's history.
Although conference play has just begun, and the Vols face some challenging road environments, it will be interesting to see if they can live up to the hype.
While assists, scoring, and high-flying dunks are thrilling aspects of the game, one of the most overlooked components of a successful team is culture. Every successful team features individuals who may not lead in points, assists, or appear on ESPN's top 10 plays every night, but they are the consummate professionals who keep the team united.
The glue that holds this current team together is Josiah-Jordan James. On the court, James is akin to a Swiss Army knife. He can defend, shoot, pass, and leads the team in rebounds per game with an average of 7.1. When other players struggle with their shooting, James can step up to lead in scoring, as he did with 23 points against NC State. He can also contribute an extremely efficient 8 points, as he did last Saturday, while also distributing 4 assists and collecting 4 rebounds. One of the most overlooked aspects of his game is his understanding of the offense's flow. James is extremely effective from mid-range, shooting an impressive 48%. However, even when his shot isn't falling, he still contributes by defending, creating good shooting opportunities for his teammates, and grabbing rebounds.
Beyond his play on the court, his leadership skills may be his most significant asset. Despite being a five-star prospect and averaging double digits last season, James chose to return to the Vols as a walk-on (UT had already allocated their 13 scholarships initially before Chris Ledlum transferred to St. John's) instead of exploring other options in the transfer portal. James's unselfishness on and off the court is paramount to UT's sustained success and could contribute to a deep tournament run. In an era dominated by the transfer portal and name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, witnessing James's selflessness is exceptionally refreshing. James is the real MVP.