Tennessee will struggle in '14-15

New coach Tyndall inherits team with one returning starter and thin frontcourt

Updated: August 12, 2014, 1:46 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Donnie TyndallAP Photo/Danny JohnstonNew Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall will have his hands full in Knoxville this season.

The Tennessee Volunteers defy easy categorization. On the one hand, they reached the Sweet 16 last March. On the other, they've lost four starters since then, as well as their head coach.

UT's appearance in last year's regional semifinal was no fluke. The Vols were actually much more effective on a per-possession basis in SEC play than the Kentucky Wildcats. When Cuonzo Martin's team came within a single possession of defeating Michigan and advancing to the Elite Eight, we shouldn't have been as surprised as we were.

Now, though, Martin has elected to accept an offer to coach the California Golden Bears. Martin's move raises concerns about the program he left behind. The popular consensus as to why he jumped ship: The Vols' fan base never quite accepted him. That logic has held true, because why else would a coach coming off a Sweet 16 appearance at an SEC school take a job with a program that has won just four NCAA tournament games since 1999-2000?

Tyndall's tough task

The Tennessee job now belongs to ex-Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall, who will have to face his first season as head coach with a cupboard that's not so much bare as stocked with unused implements. Jordan McRae, Jeronne Maymon and Antonio Barton all wrapped up their eligibility last season, while junior Jarnell Stokes left school for the draft. That leaves Josh Richardson as the lone returning starter. Richardson was an All-SEC Defensive Team selection last season who also showed burgeoning ability on offense. After entering his junior season as a career 23 percent 3-point shooter, Richardson proceeded to knock down a respectable 35 percent of his tries from beyond the arc. He will be given every opportunity to show he can be a scoring wing this season on what is otherwise an inexperienced team.