It’s funny how things always seem to come back full circle when it comes to sports. 4 of the first 5 Vols SEC basketball wins came against 4 of the 7 teams we lost to in SEC football. This week, the Vols basketball will have the opportunity to get our 6th SEC win and continue the “Football Redemption Tour” against Vanderbilt.
The Vols will be ranked as the #1 team in the country for the the first time since 2008. Oddly enough the last time Tennessee was ranked #1 in Basketball, the next game was at Vanderbilt, and Tennessee lost. So not only does this basketball team get to go out and redeem our football losses, but the Vols have a chance to redeem the 2008 basketball team’s blunder, as well.
This last weekend was the second time we’ve seen Tennessee show signs of bad play with the first being against a top ranked team in Kansas. The game against Alabama had most fan’s hearts beating out of their chests until the last seconds of the game. The Vols allowed a 12 point halftime lead slip right through their hands. They allowed Petty to put up 30 points off the bench. They allowed Donta Hall to put on a put back dunk exhibition. Tennessee also shot less than 45% from the field, and were only 25% from 3-point. Grant fouled out, again, and despite all that bad basketball, this Vols team found a way to win.
Alabama showed they can play some ball, but as we all know, they are far from being considered an elite basketball team. Sure, Alabama is a good team and for Tennessee to find a way to win that game is big time, but when Tennessee played Kansas, who is very much an elite team, they played them the exact same way and lost.
Despite the poor play on Saturday, Rick Barnes helped get this team a win, and he has told these guys what they need to hear – not what they want to hear. It is evident that Coach Barnes continues to expect excellence from this team. After putting up 106 points in a win over Arkansas, Barnes was still displeased with his team after the game for giving up 53 points in the second half. Rick wants this team to have a killer mentality. He does not want them to give any slack, because he knows they are too talented to do so.
With every game each week, it seems like we have seen a new player step up and make a difference for the Vols. Jordan Bone took his game to a new level against Memphis, Samford, and Wake Forest. Jordan Bowden should be considered for 6th man of the year with his play since the beginning of the SEC schedule. Kyle Alexander has averaged a double double in our first 3 SEC games. Most recently, Lamonte Turner has been our leading scorer against Arkansas, after coming off the bench, which just goes to shows this team has the depth to get a #1 ranking and stick around. I’ll say it again – this Vols team is the most complete team in the country.
Vols basketball has sure been a joy to watch this season and will continue to be as Vols fans hope to ride the hype all the way to March Madness. The last thing we need is a photo of Drake popping up with a Vols shirt on. This Wednesday night will be a big test for the Vols. The Big Orange cannot allow this Vanderbilt team to be like the top 25 team that beat us in 2008. Coach Barnes will have to have this team ready to make a statement after a bad showing against Alabama, cause as we all know, this is college basketball and anyone can win at home. Vol fans would also like to thank Wisconsin for beating Michigan and Duke for beating Virginia. Those two teams winning allows us to finally get the ranking we deserve: #1.