Saturday, February 18, 2012

No denying progress of Tennessee men’s basketball team

Despite losing today to Alabama, the Tennessee men's basketball team has shown progress as the season has unfolded. When the season started, the team had lost 75 percent of its scoring from last season and had a new coach. It was tough to know what to expect, and several preseason polls had the Volunteers picked next to last in the conference.

Initially, the team struggled with coach Cuonzo Martin's emphasis on defense and rebounding. The team played like a group of chuckers at times, and the initial results were not promising. The team began 3-6, including an improbable and embarrassing loss to Austin Peay. However, the team slowly began to turn it around when conference play began.

The team upset Florida then lost its next four conference games. Frankly, I was concerned the Vols might lose 20 games. However, another upset of Florida was part of a spurt that saw the Volunteers win four games in a row prior to the Alabama loss.

There has been some talk about Tennessee having a chance to make the NCAA tournament, but I do not see it. Right now, the Vols are 14-13 overall and 6-6 in the conference. The team's RPI remains above 100. Realistically, the only way the team makes the NCAAs is if it earns the conference's automatic berth by winning the SEC tournament. Tennessee has not won the SEC tourney since 1979, and in recent years, the team has not come close to winning it. So, don't hold your breath.

The NIT is the likely landing spot for the team, and that is good. It will gain more experience in post-season tournament play, and that will help next season. The team only loses two players so the nucleus for greater success will be there. Jeronne Maymon has developed into a formidable inside presence, and he can usually be marked down for 14 points and seven rebounds a game. Guard Trae Golden's ball handling has greatly improved, causing his turnovers to sharply decrease.

The future looks bright. Unfortunately, it may take another year to totally shine.


Carney said...

The Vols are better but still disappointed with loss to Bama. We should win that game. Sometimes the emphasis on defense kills our offense.

Chris said...

Nice win for the Vols over South Carolina tonight. I know Carolina stinks, but road wins have been hard to come by. Tennessee is now 8-6 in SEC play which is pretty strong when considering they were picked to finish next to last at the start of the season.