Filling roles has been a rarity on The Hill this season. Consider:
After averaging a team-best 13.6 points per game a year ago, junior point guard Trae Golden was supposed to be a dependable scorer and playmaker this season. Instead, he has been erratic and, lately, sidelined by a strained hamstring. Golden is shooting significantly worse from the field (43.9 percent to 35.2), the 3-point line (38.8 percent to 24.4) and the foul line (82.8 percent to 72.8) than he did a year ago. Not surprisingly, his scoring average has plummeted from 13.6 to 10.0.
After averaging 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in 2011-12, senior power forward Jeronne Maymon was supposed to be the cornerstone of Tennessee's inside game. Instead, he is missing the season with a knee problem.
After shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range last season, senior guard Skylar McBee was again supposed to provide the long-range threat needed to loosen up opposing defenses. McBee is struggling mightily with his role, however, shooting just 32.3 percent from 3 this year.
After helping at the point last season, Josh Richardson was supposed to be a dependable ball-handler this season. Instead, he has recorded more than twice as many turnovers (45) as assists (21).
Freshman Armani Moore was supposed to fill the role of backup point guard. That plan had to be scrapped, however, due to erratic ball-handling. He now finds himself in a totally new role — starting at shooting guard.
Jordan McRae was supposed to be a high-scoring wing, beating teams in transition with his quickness and athleticism. Instead, he is having to play point guard, a role he had never filled previously. He is averaging 4.1 turnovers per game in eight starts at point guard.
Although injuries, shooting slumps and ball-handling issues have prevented many Vols from filling their projected roles, head coach Cuonzo Martin is not making excuses.
"You've got to make the adjustments," he said, "and find a way to win games."
Tennessee was 10-12 at this time last season, then won eight of its last nine regular-season games. With nine regular-season games left this year, the Vols must elevate their play dramatically if they are to post a big finish in 2013. Still, they see a glimmer of hope.
"I feel like the work is still there and the change will come," McBee said. "There is always a point where you can turn things around. We can't really worry about the future. Whatever happens in the last game, happens in the last game. We have to worry about winning the next game, and the next game, and the next game. Everything else will take care of itself. If it works out well for us, then it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
GAME NOTES: Golden practiced the past two days and is expected to play today after missing the previous two games.... South Carolina brings a 12-10 overall record and a 2-7 SEC mark into the game.... Tennessee has beaten the Gamecocks 11 times in a row, dating to 2007, with an average victory margin of 13.0 points. No player on Tennessee's roster has ever lost to the Gamecocks.... Tennessee is averaging just 10.7 turnovers in its SEC wins and 15.3 turnovers in its league losses.... The Vols are still looking for their first road win of the season. They stand 0-6 thus far.... Sophomore post Jarnell Stokes shares the SEC lead at 9.8 rebounds per game in league play. He leads the league in offensive rebounds per game at 3.9 in SEC competition.... Today's game will be televised by Fox SportsSouth.