It’s Tournament Time in Tennessee

“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”

– The Great Mike Tyson

Well, on Sunday March 17th, 2019 – the Auburn Tigers repeatedly punched the Tennessee Volunteers right in the mouth for 40 game time minutes inside Bridgestone Arena.

Lets revert back to the lifetime high that was Saturday night before the Auburn game. The Vols had to put on the rally of their basketball season to comeback and beat the Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC Tournament Semifinals. After a Keldon Johnson made free throw, Tennessee in bounded the ball down 8 points (64-72) with 2:58 left in the game. From that point on the Vols ended the game on an 18 to 6 run, scoring on every possession in the final 2:58 to win (82-78). For Vol fans, Saturday was a dream way to start celebrating St. Patty’s day.

Then Sunday happened….

Auburn Tigers made an impressive run, winning 3 games in 3 days to make it to the SEC Championship game. This is an Auburn team that had beaten the Vols (84-80) just 8 days early in Auburn. So another chance for this Rick Barnes’ team to retaliate and make up for previous woes.

Well, Rick Barnes’ team left every bit of heart and energy somewhere on Broadway Saturday night. Auburn dominated from the tip to buzzer. The Tigers converted off sloppy Tennessee turnovers and missed defensive assignment. Auburn used their speed and shooting to either spread the Vols out in the half court or crush them in transition. Any time it seemed as if Tennessee could make a run to get back in the game, Auburn would answer with a dagger 3 point shot or an offensive rebound put back.

The Vols never had an answer for Bruce Pearl’s squad. Bruce’s Auburn squad has done a wonderful job at breaking Volunteer hearts this season. The loss at Auburn cost The Vols a share of the SEC regular season title and Sunday’s loss was for a tournament championship. So again, Tennessee is left with the question of “How will you respond?”

Examples of Volunteer responses:

The Tyson quote is one that could be put in a few situations for the Vols since February 16.

1.) On that date – February 16, fans saw this Volunteer basketball team suffer a similar beating in the second half of the first game against Kentucky, in Lexington. Kentucky’s PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson had their way the Vols that night. Tennessee looked helpless and lethargic throughout that game. Mixing box outs, getting bullied by screeners and in the post, and not winning the loose ball battle. They did not come out with the swagger and energy that this team thrives on. Tennessee lost 86-69

  • How did they respond? The Vols and returned the favor to the Wildcats in Knoxville two weeks later with at 71-52.

2.)  February 23rd Baton Rouge, LA — Number 13 ranked LSU vs number 5 University of Tennessee was a lot of what you want in a basketball game. Guys scoring at a high clip, controversial officiating, and taking overtime to decide. IF you would have told me going into that game LSU was to be without Cousy Award Finalist Tremont Waters and they were to hold 5 star Naz Reid to 1 point, I would’ve thought the Vols won by 30 points. With Waters out, Javonte Smart was given the reigns to the team that afternoon, and he ran the show. Attacking our guard off the dribble time and time again finishing with 29 points and 5 assists. The Tigers won that afternoon (82-80) to break Volunteer hearts.

  • How did they respond? Winning 3 straight games, comeback win at Ole Miss (73-71), and dominating Mississippi State (71-52) and Kentucky (71-54) at home.

3.) March 9th Auburn, AL — Round 1 of the match up was much closer, but just as tough for the Vols. Auburn overcame a 6 point Tennessee halftime lead to rally back and beat the Vols.(84-80) Offensively Auburn did the same thing, spread the Tennessee defense out and either take them off the dribble or kick out for a three.

  • How did they respond? Winning their first two SEC tournament games against Mississippi State and Kentucky. Returning back to the SEC tournament championship.

As the list above shows, the Vols continue to find new life after suffering defeat. The Sunday loss to Auburn was about as much suffering as you can take. Hopefully the response is as overwhelming as the defeat.

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NCAA First Weekend

The Vols are a 2 seed in the South Region, which sounds as if Tennessee was the top two seed. Losing by 20 points on selection Sunday in your conference Tourney does not leave a great impression for the final 1 seed. So, 2 seed in the South is actually a solid position to be in.

Round 1 opponent: Colgate University.

Facts about Colgate

  • Located in Hamilton, NY.
  • Enrollment of 2,894
  • Mascot: Raiders
  • Won the Patriot League Regular Season and Conference Tournament.
  • Have made the most 3 pointers in College basketball since February 1st (per Wes Rucker on Twitter)
  • Colgate’s leading scorer (16.4 ppg) and Patriot League Player of the Year, Rapolas Ivanauskas, is a former transfer from Northwestern. He’s 6’10 225 lbs and was a 4 star/Top 100 recruit in the 2016 class out of high school. SOOO, he can play some ball.

Colgate is going to be watching and figuring out Auburn’s formula against Rick Barnes and company. So be prepared to watch a lot of three point shots fired by the Raiders.

It’s The Big Dance, and now no one is safe from upset. Thanks UMBC. The Vols are one of the most picked teams to make a run at an elite 8 or Final 4. They have size, athleticism, and talent over Colgate, but that means nothing come Friday at 2:45.

Are odds in Tennessee’s favor? Sure! 2 seeds are 128 – 8 all time again 15 seed, but there are still those 8. So Tennessee can’t come in with cruise control on again.

Potential Second Round Matchups:

10 Seed Iowa Hawkeyes

  • 22-11 Overall Record
  • 6th in conference with a 10-10 Big Ten Record
  • Key wins this season: Oregon (w/ Bol Bol), Michigan, and Iowa State
  • Lost 4 of their last 5 games.

7 Seed Cincinnati:

  • 28 – 6 Overall Record
  • 2nd in the American with a 14-4 conference record.
  • Key wins Ole Miss, Xavier, UCF, and Houston
  • Won American Conference Tournament.
  • Playing in the state of Ohio for first 2 rounds.

 

So looking ahead to the first weekend of the tourney, the Vols are in for somewhat of a challenge, but have answers for everything these lower seeds teams have for them and should cruise through to the Sweet 16. The first weekend is always filled with craziness, so you never know

It’s time to wipe the blood off the lips from the SEC championship and use that as fuel. Have a Rocky or Creed stand up from the corner stool moment, and go get what what you came back to accomplish.

Go Vols.

 

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