- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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As of this writing, Tennessee is currently in a thoroughly well-played and entertaining Elite Eight dogfight with Michigan State. (It's 56-51 Spartans with about 12 minutes left in the second half.) Seeing as Bruce Pearl's team reached its first Elite Eight in the history of the program, it's safe to say Tennessee is doing just fine without dismissed forward Tyler Smith. But since Smith has been such a topic of conversation surrounding Tennessee's run -- it's hard to praise the Vols without saying something like "when you consider where Tennessee was on New Year's Day" -- it's probably worth mentioning what Smith happens to be up to these days.
Surprisingly enough, he's playing basketball. In Turkey. And he's playing quite well, actually.
Smith is currently starting for Turkish professional team Bornova BLD in an attempt to improve his NBA draft stock for the summer's coming draft. Smith was a fringe first-rounder in last year's draft; according to Chad Ford, that status is basically the same for 2010. Smith's play can't be hurting matters: He's averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds in his first four games with the team.
How much would Bruce Pearl prefer to have Tyler Smith in his lineup right now? Well, yeah, he'd probably prefer it. Those are the numbers of the player that many assumed would be first-team All-SEC this season, the Vols' most complete post threat. Smith would have surely added another dimension to the Vols' offensive attack, which is heavily perimeter-oriented. But it's also safe to say Pearl's team has done just fine without its talented big man. And who's to say Smith's dismissal didn't pull Pearl's team closer together? It certainly changed the dynamic of its season, and that season has been pretty darn successful so far.