Monday, March 22, 2010

Tennessee's unlikely run through the NCAA tourney continues

A little more than a week ago, I wrote a posting discussing the four Southeastern Conference teams that were selected for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

I was especially upset at what Tennessee received from the tournament selection committee. A sixth-seeding that likely would result in a second-round meeting with Georgetown in its own backyard was frustrating. However, it did not work out that way. After slipping past San Diego State in the opener, the Volunteers got a gift when Ohio upset Georgetown. In the second round, Tennessee played well in thumping Ohio 83-68. Now, a trip to the Sweet 16 awaits.

Tennessee plays second-seeded Ohio State Friday night. The key to the game will be if Tennessee can slow down Buckeye's standout Evan Turner. The 6-7 guard/forward leads Ohio State in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals.

If the Vols get by the Buckeyes, things really start to get interesting. The Vols would then play either Michigan State or Northern Iowa for a trip to the Final Four. Of course, Northern Iowa is the team that upset top-seeded Kansas, but one has to wonder how long this small school can withstand the bright lights and the big stage of such a tournament. Michigan State has had a good season, but the Spartans are not as strong as they have been in recent years. They needed a buzzer beater against Maryland to advance, and they also lost to Florida earlier in the year.

Given Tennessee's poor track record in the tournament, cautious optimism is perhaps the best way to approach Friday's game. The Vols have never advanced passed the Sweet 16. Some will suggest that the Vols are due to break through, but it is not as easy as that.

Tennessee is always at its best when its back is against the wall, and nobody gives them a chance. All the well-earned kudos they have received recently might be the last thing the team needs to hear right now. Coach Bruce Pearl is a master motivator, and his hands will be full when preparing his team.

As a Tennessee graduate, I am very proud of what the team has accomplished. When all the off the court problems happened on January 1, I thought the season was over. However, Pearl handled the situation honorably, and the rest of the team banded together. I definitely did not think our record today would be 27-8 and be in the Sweet 16.

It just goes to show how unpredictable sports (and life) can be. Good luck to the Volunteers.


Chris said...

Tennessee 76 Ohio State 73. I only watched bits and pieces of the game, but what I saw was terrific. The defense (primarily J.P. Prince) did a good job of clamping down on Evan Turner (who is excellent) in the second half. The elite eight sounds great!

Chris said...

Michigan State 70 Tennessee 69.....CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!