Mike Strange: Home court no advantage this season

Mike Strange

The time has come for Tennessee’s men’s basketball team to draw a line.

Not in the sand, but at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Because the Vols have failed to defend their home court this season, they are left with no choice but to defend it in the next two weeks.

Is there an or else attached to that statement? Yes, more or less.

Tennessee’s NCAA tournament credentials have been on a gradual decline for a while. The Vols (15-10, 5-5 SEC) tip off tonight at home against South Carolina.

Since a 7-0 start, UT has flip-flopped along at 8-10 through the meat of the regular season. Not very impressive.

The problems aren’t losses at Connecticut, Kentucky or Florida. While wins in any of those venues could have been résumé-clinchers, not winning won’t merit a stiff penalty.

The Vols should have won at Charlotte, could have won at Arkansas, but nobody’s perfect. Not even Ohio State, Kansas or Texas.

Tennessee’s real failure has been under its own roof. The Vols are a modest 9-5 in Thompson-Boling this season.

“We’ve lost close games at home but we’ve also won some close games,’’ Pearl said Tuesday. “Belmont twice, Missouri State and Vanderbilt.’’

You’re supposed to win close games at home. And the Vols have for nearly all of Pearl’s regime.

There was, in fact, a 35-game home winning streak that extended beyond two complete seasons.

Pearl’s first team lost only twice at home. Last year, despite the New Year’s Day roster purge, the Vols dropped only one home game. Ask Kansas how tough it was to win in Thompson-Boling.

So over four of Pearl’s first five years, his teams lost a grand total of three games in Knoxville.

The only season comparable to this one was 2008-09, when the Vols also lost five home games — of which only Gonzaga and LSU were NCAA tournament teams.

Still, perception-wise, this year’s home record looks worse.

Oakland and College of Charleston are capable mid-majors, but they shouldn’t beat Tennessee by double digits anywhere, much less in Knoxville. Southern Cal is 13-12 and going nowhere.

Overtime losses to Florida and Alabama are haunting. UT can only wonder if Pearl’s presence on the bench would have made a difference.

Pearl will be on the bench for the stretch run. And he’d better make a difference.

Of Tennessee’s six remaining regular-season games, four are at home: South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky.

If the Vols defend their turf, road games at Vanderbilt (tough) and South Carolina (winnable) are gravy.

Go 4-0 at home and UT finishes no worse than 9-7 SEC and 19-12 overall. Given a terrific strength of schedule, that’s an NCAA tournament résumé.

“I can’t even go there,’’ Pearl said. “I don’t want to start playing the four-out-of-six-at-home game.

“We’ve got South Carolina here and this is a team that beat Florida at Florida and we didn’t do that.’’

Like the rest of the team, senior Brian Williams was caught off-guard by the Vols’ vulnerability at home. Asked if five losses was enough, he replied, “One is enough.’’

One more would be one too many. Better late than never, Tennessee has to draw that line.

“There’s nothing else we can do,’’ Williams said. “Losing is not an option.’’

That’s true because, up to now, losing has too often been an option.

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 11

born2ride writes:

Pearl won at home before he became a distraction. Now any team can come in and get a win.

HtownVol writes:

I would love to finish 4-0 at home and in past seasons under BP that would be a fairly confident assumption. But this is no regular BP coached team.
I have said it before, I think we will make the tourney this season but next year looks very discouraging.
With no true Center UT may be in for a very long season.
I only hope Bruce has someone all but locked up. A JUCO Center is very much needed to go along with a big talented prospect.
GO VOLS!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Start working it inside instead of taking so many threes!...at home AND on the road! Where is the team that beat Pitt and Nova? Get going!...one at a time! GBO!

TennVol01 writes:

I am shocked. No ... I am not. Home advantage does not count for men UT basketball. They suck at home.

seadaddy writes:

in response to Claudettevol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Is that you Lady Gaga...?
ATTENTION SEEKER!

eduardo writes:

Why in the heck is Jalen Steele not on this basketball team?????????????

1vavolfan writes:

If you have been to other places to see a college basketball game you realize what poor support we get from the students. They dont show up unless its against Kentucky or Florida and the ones that dont sit behind the basket act like they are spending an evening at the theater. They should take part of their allotment away and sell them to people who will pay.

196SVol writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

If you have been to other places to see a college basketball game you realize what poor support we get from the students. They dont show up unless its against Kentucky or Florida and the ones that dont sit behind the basket act like they are spending an evening at the theater. They should take part of their allotment away and sell them to people who will pay.

You are correct. The students at KY and UF go wild at every game. Maybe they are football fans?

NashvillePreds writes:

When I read the headline, I thought he was talking about Neyland Stadium for the past six years.
<sigh>.........

brod writes:

it is not an advantage because every single time the crowds gets loud, the team either breaks down defensively or fails to score. the crowd gives up after that happens a few times. past teams have used the crowd noise to their advantage both offensively and defensively.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 196SVol:

You are correct. The students at KY and UF go wild at every game. Maybe they are football fans?

Back during football season, lots of people were saying that the students weren't showing up for the games the way they did in many past seasons. One reason often mentioned was that the students had to pay for their game tickets, which they had not been required to do before. Do the students have to pay for basketball tickets now, too?

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