Now that the college football season has finished (for Tennessee Volunteer fans, anyway), it's time to take a look at how this season should unfold for Tennessee's men's and women's basketball teams. Frankly, the season looks bright for both of them.
I won't focus on the women's team in this posting, but let's just say there is little to worry about. Pat Summitt has her team looking razor sharp despite the Lady Vols recent loss to Stanford.
The men's team recently completed an impressive road trip that included wins at Xavier and Gonzaga. Both those teams will be in the NCAA tournament in March.
The Volunteers are 12-1 heading into SEC play on Jan. 9 when they host Ole Miss. Coach Bruce Pearl has recruited a lot of talent, and he seems to be doing a good job getting it to mesh together.
The Vols only loss was to Texas, and when I watched that game, I had a flashback to Jerry Green's final team when he coached Tennessee. That team also had a boatload of talent, but he could not harness it, so it never came together as a cohesive unit. It was a shame because that team was ranked as high as fourth in the polls before falling apart down the stretch.
As I watched the Vols lose to Texas, I saw nothing but lazy defense and players willing to chuck up shots as quickly as possible. However, since then, the team's defensive intensity has improved, plus newcomers J.P. Prince and Tyler Smith have been playing extremely well.
The only concern is the prolonged shooting slump of Chris Lofton, but he is too talented to let this slump last all year.
Interesting statistic to ponder: Since Pearl came to Tennessee, the Vols are 39-4 in games in which they have scored 80 points or more. Keep that number in mind as the season unfolds.
Undoubtedly, teams are going to want to slow things down and get us into a half-court game. If we can control the tempo of games, I believe that stat is a tremendous indicator of how successful the team will be this year.
The SEC Eastern Division is there for the taking. Kentucky is obviously down. Florida is talented but inexperienced. Vanderbilt can score a lot of points, but their defense is iffy. Georgia is a bit of a mystery team, while South Carolina has looked really unimpressive at times this season.
Tennessee has the best talent in the division. Can they win it? Time will tell.