Blog Entry

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:40 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 6:42 pm
Cuonzo Martin, right, has pulled off one of the best coaching jobs in the country this year. (US Presswire)

By Matt Norlander

Tennessee is still in play to finish second in the SEC.

That's more than surprising; it's downright stunning.

The Volunteers were supposed to take this year to learn, get better, grow older and adapt to first-year coach Cuonzo Martin's system. Now, after UT (18-13, 10-6) defeated Vanderbilt 68-61 at home Saturday, the Volunteers' name is getting tossed out in the bubble picture. At least two more big wins are needed for the at-large talk to have legitimacy and logistical reason, but the fact Martin's coached his team to this point is impressive -- and hopefully a really, really good sign for the future of this program.

The Martin hire was considering underwhelming by some Tennessee fans. But this was after the beloved Bruce Pearl was forced out for lying to the NCAA, effectively blacklisted for three years by the institution as well. Martin came in after guiding Missouri State to one NIT appearance and not NCAA tournament berths in three seasons. Martin's done as good of a job already, no matter what happens in the SEC tournament, as anyone could expect.

If the Tennessee-in-the-tournament talk feels premature to you, that's because it is. No one is putting UT in yet, but they're now on the pile. The Vols played the first half of this season without freshman Jarnell Stokes. Stokes is one of Tennessee's two best players, so yeah, that's got impact. Since he started playing, the Volunteers are 9-5. It's not a huge uptick in how they play, but they're undeniably better with him in the lineup. The team has wins over Vandy, a sweep of Florida -- huge -- and that home win against UConn, which isn't greatly impressive ... but if we got down to it, could be a trump card.

Tennessee also closed its season out by winning three of four on the road. The Selection Committee highly values road wins. On the year, UT is 3-8. You wonder if the overall record carries a lot more heft -- considering most of those road losses were without Stokes -- than the recent surge.

To get it really interesting, Tennessee's going to have to earn itself another top-50 win. Getting the No. 2 seed, which can only happen if Florida beats Kentucky at home Sunday, would be paramount, as it would give Tennessee its best shot at reaching the SEC finals, since they couldn't face Kentucky in the bracket until then. All of this is conjecture and optimism, but the fact we're even posting about Tennessee on March 3 in relation to getting a bye in the SEC tournament and still having hoping for the bracket that matters? It amounts to one of the most unlikely storylines in major college basketball this season.
Category: NCAAB

Since: Dec 12, 2006
Posted on: March 4, 2012 8:37 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

You might want to go back and look at the SEC's record against the rest of the BCS leagues. Only UK? Let's see SEC is 10-10 vs Big East, 4-2 vs Big 12, 5-2 vs Pac 12, 8-6 vs ACC, and 3-5 vs Big 10. Big 10 only conference SEC did not hold their own against. SEC is not only a 1 team league. UK is that good, trust me. Your team will see Anthony Davis soon enough.

Since: Jan 16, 2008
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:10 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

You couldn't be more ignorant - winning 8 or their last 9 and 10 of their last 13 doesn't add up to "lose left and right all season long" - try again.

Since: Jan 16, 2008
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:08 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

You couldn't be more ignorant - winning 8 or their last 9 and 10 of their last 13 doesn't add up to "lose left and right all season long" - try again.

Since: Sep 4, 2010
Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:06 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

The Vols did have some inexplicable losses (Austin Peay) and were pretty bad for the first half of the year.  However, I don't think winning 8 of the last 9 in the RPI #4 rated conference is "lose left and right all season long" either.  I would agree that they lost left and right the first half, but they've been a really good team in the 2nd half of the season.  If they finish #2 in the SEC regular season and finish runner up in the SEC tourney, I think they should be considered for the Big Dance.  Anything short of the finals will keep them out of the conversation.

Since: Feb 26, 2008
Posted on: March 3, 2012 9:43 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

Hey Matt you made a mistake in the last paragraph, Tennessee gets the #2 seed if Florida LOSES to Kentucky, if Florida wins then they'll be 11-5 while the Vols are 10-6.

Now onto the substance of the article.  Tennessee needs to win two games in the SEC tournament to even get a sniff at the bubble, the problem is that we'll have to met Kentucky sometime in the tournament either in the semifinals which probably means no victory #2 or in the championship game which will probably result in a really bad loss that knock them off the bubble.  Then there is the fact that the Vols underperform at the SEC tourney.  I've been hoping that the Vols get to the NIT all season and frankly that's still we're I'm expecting them to end up, however if they win 3 games in the SEC including over Kentucky then I would happy.

Also Coach Martin should win at least a share of SEC Coach of the Year. 

Since: Dec 16, 2008
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:04 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

Hell no. Tennesee has done nothing but lose left and right all season long. You're also forgetting that Tennesee has a lot of bad losses on the year aswell. Add that to the SEC really being a 1 team league with Kentucky and all the rest, and you dont even have consideration.

Instead try looking at Drexel, whos won 18 games straight, or VCU, who has been playing lights out for the last 2 months after a slow start.

But please god dont mention Tennesee in the bubble talk. We dont need another Northwestern feel good story here. Resume has got to matter at some point.     

Since: Nov 29, 2007
Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:52 pm

Tennessee aligning itself for consideration

Nice article.  About time we were at least included in the discussion.  Norlander, you actually made some pretty good points as well.  Playing without Stokes, and finishing strong at end of season.  If we can make some noise in the SEC tourney, we should have a legitimate chance to make the NCAA tourney, but even with an NIT bid wrapped up, it has already been a successfull season given how its played out.  GO VOLS!!

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