Tennessee Finally Playing Up to Its Potential
Fans were calling for the firing of head coach Cuonzo Martin (with Bruce Pearl as their choice to replace him) after the Vols dropped a must-win game in overtime to an average Texas A&M team.
But then something changed. Seemingly knowing that they had to win out in order to make a case to get an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, Tennessee has turned things around with four straight victories, with three of those coming in dominant fashion.
The streak started with a seven-point road win at Mississippi State on February 26, but since that point, Tennessee has beaten Vanderbilt by 38, Auburn by 28, and Missouri by 27.
Not exactly a bad way to close out the season, huh?
Now, those four teams haven't exactly been SEC juggernauts this season. But, that's not really the point. The impressive part of this for the Vols has been how they've won these games, and in doing so, they've started looking like the team we all expected them to be when the season tipped off in November.
While this is obviously a positive turn of events in terms of Tennessee's postseason hopes, Volunteer fans have to be somewhat frustrated by the fact that it's taken so long to see this type of play from this very talented team.
This is the same Tennessee team that beat ACC champion Virginia by 35 points in late December. This is the same Tennessee team that was leading undefeated Wichita State midway through the second half.
But for whatever reason, it's taken a while to get back to seeing the team that everyone knows they can be.
Say what you want about Martin's coaching tenure up to this point, but you have to give him credit for the way he's lead this team down the stretch. The Vols could have easily folded after the tough loss to the Aggies (which many believed had ended their NCAA tourney hopes), but instead, Martin has them playing their best basketball of the season.
Tennessee will have a double bye in this week's SEC tournament, and will likely have a meeting with Arkansas (another team trying to secure a tournament spot) on Friday.
It's hard to see Martin's team being left out at this point, but a bad loss to Arkansas would probably make things a little more interesting than they need to be.
Still, barring a horrendous loss, Tennessee should finally experience March Madness for the first time in the Martin era thanks to its domination over the past few weeks.
Hey, better late than never, right?
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