While a nation logically hurls all its attention toward the newer, shinier freshmen trotting about college basketball, Tennessee Volunteers senior Admiral Schofield arrived on Sunday against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, scoring 25 second-half points to help earn the Vols an upset.
Semantics over whether or not it was an upset to begin with aside, Schofield has been stellar for some time. For those who regularly follow Tennessee, The Admiral was already operating as a pillar of the program. A volume-scoring, 6-foot-6 Nachtkrapp. Unlike the Night Raven, instead of abducting children, Schoefield snags the souls of opponents, turning them into figurative dust.
It’s been a years in the making star turn. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, and while he was productive, he played under 20 minutes per game in his first two seasons with the Vols. It was his junior campaign, with ample minutes provided, people began to witness a rather stunning development happening in Tennessee.
Only averaging 8.2 points per game as a sophomore, Schofield raised that number to 13.9 in his third year with the program. As importantly, he began to shoot from distance in volume, making nearly 40 percent of his 4.6 attempts from beyond the arc.
It’s Schofield’s confidence, coupled with remarkable development, which has incrementally improved Tennessee’s odds of consistently remaining near the top of fictional power rankings and meaningless Top 25 polls. The Vols might lack the flashiness Duke operates with, or fails to amaze with balance like Michigan, but Tennessee is as good as any team in the country right now.
To be Camp Crystal Lake clear: Credit should be evenly spread throughout the entire program. However, no qualms are necessary, as Schofield is the backbone of the Vols.
Keen eyes could have projected part of what is transpiring this season, but even the best set of eyeballs couldn’t predict the insane run the Illinois product is having.
Leading a Tennessee team with high expectations to a 7-1 start, Admiral Schoefield is nothing short of brilliant. In fact, had he entered the 2018-19 voyage with as much fanfare as those super-freshman, he’d at least be in the middle of All-American conversations.
Through eight games, the 2018 version of The Admiral is averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per contest. Equally as important, despite shooting in volume, he’s scoring with relative efficiency, making 48 percent of his shots from the floor and an insane 41 percent of his attempts from distance.
Mind you, while listed as a guard, Schofield is often tasked with playing the three, aggrandizing his value, providing Tennessee with a floor-spacing world-beater.
It’s difficult to speak on Schofield only hours after making key plays against the then No. 1 ranked team in the nation. He feels almost too topical to the point only hyperbolic discussions can be had. Then again, sports are meant to be a form of entertainment. Few moments this season were more entertaining than watching him will Rick Barnes to his first victory over a top-ranked team.
In this scenario, Schofield is Walter White and Rui Hachimura is Hank Schrader… or something.
Nevertheless, Gonzaga is excellent. A deserving top-five team in the country. On the other hand, Tennessee should have always been in that conversation. The Vols are a team returning the majority of their key players from last season’s tremendous run. While media outlets will act as though everyone should be shocked by Sunday’s outcome, given the actual context of the situation, the win was less an upset and closer to two teams who could probably split 100 games evenly if they played that many times.
What should put fear in the hearts and minds of top programs across the country has nothing to do with Tennessee supposedly arriving, though. Put that narrative to bed. They already had (CBB Today had the Vols ranked fourth in our preseason poll). It’s that Barnes has a player like Schofield — one who is designed to do damage in a tournament style setting.
The NCAA Tournament trope forever revolves around how it’s a single-game elimination setting format favoring guards. In reality, it champions anyone who can play on the wing (Carmelo Anthony’s freshman run is proof). Admiral Schofield, as a bucket-making marvel, fits that mold. He is crafty, smart, talented and athletic enough to put all of Tennessee’s burdens on his shoulders when the time calls for it. He literally showcased that ability against Gonzaga.
Given how quickly (and often) he’s developed over the course of three years and change, he’s probably only getting started.
Joseph Nardone has covered college basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
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