ST. LOUIS - The team that was supposed to be upset bait in the opening round is still around.
And there aren't many teams still around. Eight of them. That's it.
The team that was said to be undeserving of playing in the Sweet 16 is playing for a berth in the Final Four.
Tennessee fought Ohio State for every second of the 40 minutes on the clock Friday night at the Edward Jones Dome.
Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73.
The Vols are still standing.
Well, when the final horn sounded they were jumping and dancing and hugging and mugging for their fans who came to witness a historic step for the program.
"I think we've done a great job of actually deserving victory - we've worked hard,'' said J.P. Prince, one of the heroes in orange.
There were plenty of heroes to share a break-through moment, to nudge a program to a level it had never achieved before.
Prince penetrated Ohio State's defense for 14 points and six assists and got his long arms in the way of a bunch of Buckeye shots and passes.
Wayne Chism was a beast in the second half, scoring 18 of his 22 points.
Brian Williams continued his late-season surge with another double-digit rebound game. None of his 12 boards were bigger than the tip-in with 32 seconds to play that put Tennessee back in front, 74-73.
Bobby Maze came up with the 16th Ohio State turnover of the game. Then, with the weight of history on his tattooed shoulders, he nailed two free throws with 12.9 seconds to play.
Cameron Tatum came off the bench to hit shots and keep the Vols breathing during a torrid-shooting Ohio State first half.
Melvin Goins and Josh Bone showed up again as tough guys, tougher than the box score can quantify.
Yes, they were deserving.
"When you've got somebody doubting you,'' said Williams, "and you prove 'em wrong, it feels even better.''
Plenty of folks have doubted Tennessee. Most of the talking heads on the various sports networks and Web sites have been more likely to point out what was wrong with Tennessee than what was right.
Upset-fodder? That one's been put to bed. Undeserving? Doesn't apply any more, not after fighting back to oust the No. 2 seed Buckeyes.
Sixteenth-best team in the Sweet 16? Friday night said otherwise.
So who are these guys now?
"We're Tennessee,'' said Tatum. "That's all we know how to be.
"We don't care what anybody says about us. All the things we went through this year, we've still remained Tennessee.
"And that's not going to change now.''
There still is a "now" for Tennessee basketball. Think about it.
There is practice today. There is another scouting report to prepare and absorb.
There's a game to play Sunday.
There's still a dream to dream.
"I can't believe the whole situation,'' said Goins.
"But it's still business. The weekend's not over. We've got business to take care of.''
That's what coach Bruce Pearl said, too.
Pearl is as emotional a guy as you'll ever meet. No one embraces history and tradition more.
But there is a time and place for that and this is not it.
"I am happy,'' he said. "I'm proud. I'm proud to tears. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am.
"But we've got work to do now. We've got to prepare for a game, and we'll reflect when the season's over.''
The season might be over Sunday night. And it might not.
"We're not satisfied yet,'' said Tatum.
"We've gotten to the Elite Eight and made history, but you don't get a trophy for the Elite Eight.
"We know we've got more work to do.''
The number of teams with more work yet to do has dwindled to eight. An Elite Eight, and Tennessee is one of them.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6276.