McRae, a 6-6 freshman from Midway, Ga., was spectacular in preseason scrimmages, leading the Vols in 3-point percentage and showcasing an assortment of dazzling dunks.
The slender rookie started the exhibition opener at small forward but struggled mightily - missing his first six shots before finishing 2 of 8 from the field. He played so poorly that he wasn't among the five starters for Monday night's exhibition No. 2 vs. Indianapolis. Nor was he among the first five guys off the bench. By the time McRae entered the contest with 12:01 left in the first half, 11 of his teammates already had broken a good sweat.
Going from starter to the No. 12 man on a team with a 10-man rotation can be frustrating. McRae's frustration apparently came out in the second half of exhibition No. 2, when he was caught throwing an elbow and whistled for a technical foul. Indianapolis made both technical free throws, then scored off the ensuing possession to cap a 26-3 explosion that gave the Greyhounds a 15-point lead (58-43) they would parlay into a 15-point win (79-64).
Cameron Tatum is slated to start tonight's regular-season opener at small forward, with fellow junior Renaldo Woolridge being the first sub at the position. That probably means McRae will be squirming on the bench for the game's first 10 minutes or so.
How will the young Vol react? Will he quit pressing and show fans the player he was in preseason or will he let frustration creep into his play, as it did vs. Indy?
That's one of the interesting sub-plots that bears watching in tonight's opener.
NOTES: Chattanooga is expected to start two transfers tonight - 6-1 guard Keegan Bell (Vanderbilt) and 6-5 wing Omar Wattad (Georgetown). Wattad, a Johnson City native, lit up the Vols in the 2008 Old Spice Classic, hitting 3 of 3 from beyond the arc en route to a 9-point, 5-rebound performance in just 15 minutes of reserve play. The Mocs' other starters are projected to be 6-8 DeAntre Jefferson, 6-7 Chris Early and 6-5 Tony Cage.... Tennessee posted a program-record 32 assists last time the teams met. That was a 114-75 Vol romp in 2008.... Tennessee has won 11 consecutive season openers and 18 consecutive home openers.