That is the question everyone would love to have answered. As has become my habit on the Cycling Logue, about all I can say is "Time will tell." But I am an optimist, so here is what I expect.
First: Which players do I think will start at the beginning of the year? Hendrix, Gee, Torrence and Riley almost certainly will be four of the first five to take the court. I think the fifth player might give us a clue for what CMG really intends to try to do this year. If it is Brandon Hollinger (my favorite player by the way), then that will not bode well for the season in my opinion. As much as I love Hollinger's heart and effort, he simply does not possess the physical tools to be a starter in the SEC, especially not when that would leave so much raw talent on the bench.
I rather hope CMG starts Tubbs in that fifth spot. Tubbs has played very good defense and could use the early season warm ups to find the range on his three point shot. (Ditto for Riley.) I think this would be a good move and would indicate that CMG really does intend to stress defensive play and to try to run the court on their opponents. If CMG starts Jemison (I don't ), that would more likely indicate a commitment to the old way of doing things and I would not deem that a good sign.
Torrence has a big body. His father tells me he has grown to at least 6'5" during the off season, and he might still be growing. He has demonstrated excellent quickness and has been very active in the zone defense. He seemed to be having some problems getting to know the team's offense last year. That is not at all unusual for a true freshman. Here's hoping the off season S&C program did its work and that Torrence spent some extra time reviewing films and studying the game. If he did, I would expect Torrence to surprise many of his detractors this year. Plus I have heard that he has been a relentless defender in practice and that would play into the new running approach.
I honestly hope CMG brings Pickett of the bench early and often to avoid the problems we experienced last year when Ron Steele could not play. Torrence was used only sparingly during the preseason and hardly got to play until late in the SEC schedule. The team would have benefited at that point from a more experienced and more confident Torrence. I have yet to see Pickett play, but if he is nearly as good as advertised then we need him to get his sea legs quickly so he can take his turns at the point. I would expect Hollinger to play only sparingly this year. We need to develop the younger players.
Do we really have the talented bodies necessary to play a true center this season? We will not know until we have seen Knox play. Jemison should be the first big man off the bench. He is not as tall as Knox but he is very athletic. The jury still is out on Coleman. The young man plays hard but he might not have the body or the talent to play more than a few minutes per night in the SEC. I have not heard anyone report on Knox who was not predisposed to favor the young man, so I am optimistic but am waiting to see him before deciding to rely on him to contribute very much as a freshman. If Knox can contribute other than to eat up clock and to take up space, then his presence could make a tremendous difference on this year's team.
I was growing more optimistic about this team's chances until DJC called me on his way home from tonight's Crimson-White exhibition game. Unfortunately the freshmen all still look like freshmen. (That is to be expected. Seldom does a kid come in really ready to play at the speed and intensity of SEC level play.) Torrence played well in spots but the offense has not yet become a part of his nature. A truly excellent point guard has to develop instincts (or habits) that eliminate most opportunities for active decision making. Pickett is a freshman and he really needs a seasoned veteran to mentor him. There's no need to belabor how that situation came to be.
The kids have just started practicing together so perhaps things will fall into place more quickly than they did last year. Let's hope so. If they do, then the freshman will have a chance to grow into their roles without having the weight of the world forced onto their shoulders at critical moments. Not all freshmen are nearly automatic at the free throw line the way Hollinger was his first year.
It sounds like they looked really rusty, but they were hustling and exhibiting effort. I can live with a poor W-L record if we just are getting effort from everyone on the court all the time. Once CMG teaches them to play at full speed all the time, teaching the rest of the mechanics will be easier.
We could have a very competitive team by the end of the season. Time will tell.