On January 1st, 2010 four Tennessee basketball players realized that when you have weed and an unregistered handgun in the car, you get arrested. On Friday January 8th, 2010 the finalized penalty was handed down to those players. Tyler Smith, one of the Vols’ best players at the time, would now be dismissed from the team. As for Brian Williams, Melvin Goins, and Cameron Tatum, well they got a softer sentencing with just indefinite suspensions. As far as the fandom part of this, this timing could not have been any worse. Why? Because the number 1 Kansas Jayhawks were coming to Knoxville in 2 days.
You want to talk to talk about a gut shot right to the Vols.Tyler Smith was our 6’7 multi-faceted small forward who was leading the team in minutes up to that point,and the other three players were all playing 12+ minutes a game. We didn’t just lose some bench warmers, we lost key components. And this number 1 Kansas team was rolling in with 7 players who would all go on to play in the NBA – The Morris twins, Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, and Xavier Henry. You know that little win percentage circle on ESPN? I bet it had a whole lot of Kansas blue leading up to Sunday. Underdog role would be underselling what that cold Sunday afternoon label was for the 16th ranked Vols.
The game was back in forth from the tip. No lead larger than 8 points throughout the game. What made all the difference in the game, them Vols wreaked absolute havoc on defense. Active hands, bodies flying to every loose ball, player communication sounded like a gamblers pit at a prize fight. It was heartwarming thing to watch on a chilly winter afternoon. We forced that star studded Kansas roster into 16 turnovers and held them under 40% of the field. Vols won 76 – 68. Statement win too it’s finest. It had it all, players like Renaldo Woolridge embracing the next man up mentality and going 4-6 from 3 point range, Skyler McBee hitting a step through three with 1 second left on the shot clock (that shot made his career), and our own star Scotty Hopson playing like a star on the biggest stage. Bruce Pearl’s post game speech says it all: You had a chance to make history, and you did it.
Tonight’s match up against number 2 ranked Kansas is a WHOLE different feel than the game of 2010.
They still have stars:
- Dedric Lawson is a former 5 star who transferred from Memphis, who came to Kansas to showcase his game. He’s doing that so far and just dropped 26 on Marquette.
- Legarld Vick is a 6’5 guard who is putting up a cool 20.8 points per game right now.
- And Udoka Azubuike, well that could Grant or Kyle worst nightmare. He’s a 7’1 270 lbs grown man who loves to block shots and play with physicality.
But here’s the thing, I mentioned the difference in the 2010 game was wreaking havoc on defense through communication and effort. Well, the 2018 Vols know how to play some frustrating defense. Defensive rotations will be key if we get beat off the dribble, can’t let the big Nigerian Azubuike get dump off dunks and layoffs. Speaking of that big fella, Grant or Kyle’s main keys to negating his size, is run him ragged block to block. Have to beat him down the floor every time. He also loves to block shots which gets him in foul trouble A LOT. So tire him out and Grant already loves the pump fake, so he should handle him well. Guards are going to have to guard. LeMonte coming back spreads the floor for the rest of our guys to operate.
Let’s prove we can beat the Blue Bloods and get a statement win. You have a chance to make history, go do it.
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