Who will lead Vols next season?
When Tennessee opens up the 2010-2011 basketball season, there will be several faces missing from the orange and white jerseys.
You won't see Wayne Chism with his customary headband high atop his dome.
You won't see J.P. Prince making the most clutch and the most boneheaded plays at the same time of any Vol in history.
And you won't see Bobby Maze manning the point guard in clutch situations.
No, next season's Vols will make fans miss the seniority Bruce Pearl's roster enjoyed in 2010. But as UT's trio of seniors steps off Thompson-Boling's court for the last time, some highly-touted newcomers will be making their way to Rocky Top hoping to fill the void left behind.
Tobias Harris. Jordan McRae. Trae Golden. Jeronne Maymon. Four newcomers likely to make an impact on next season's Tennessee basketball roster.
McRae and Golden are exciting guards who look to bring athleticism to the backcourt. Maymon is a Marquette transfer who came to UT in January and will be eligible to play in December, nearly a mirror image of J.P. Prince's transfer situation years ago. All accounts point to Maymon making noise early as a dominant post presence.
Harris might be the gem of the newcomers. An athletic power forward with a jump shot, think Tyler Smith with an explosive scoring ability.
But aside from the newcomers, who of the returning players will pick up the slack from UT's departed seniors?
Scotty Hopson will likely be that player, but that was the same discussion before this past season. Hopson was a tad bit more aggressive this season, but his free throw shooting and outside shooting still came up short when in dire need.
Brian Williams showed flashes of dominance in the paint. Cameron Tatum was the best 3-point shooter on the team in many stretches. Melvin Goins has proven an ability to score and defense as a backup to Maze. And Kenny Hall's athletic ability in the post could come in handy next season with a little more bulk.
But who will it be? Questions like that make seasons worth playing. Bank on Williams becoming a more solid rebounder and showing an improvement on finishing shots in the post. And with Chism gone, Williams' rebounding will need to step up, and losing the team's top rebounder will give opportunities to other players to snag boards.
Goins and Tatum would be a fantastic 2nd string duo on the perimeter, as long as Tatum's defense improves. Hopson has had two season to live up to his potential, and while he has yet to reach his celing, last season was above and beyond his play during his freshman year. Add a little more aggressive play and servicable free throw shooting, and Hopson could easily be the go-to scorer on this roster.
Chemistry is the intangible no one can predict. How will newcomers mesh with the veterans from the team? That remains to be seen, but the improvement of each player in key areas could help this squad build on a historic Elite Eight run next year.