Reports that Tennessee was on a bullet train back to the NIT are greatly exaggerated.
The Vols, having lost their way in mid-December, arrived at a crossroads Wednesday night.
A 104-84 rout of No. 21 Memphis puts UT squarely back on the path to a promising postseason. And it wasn't really that close.
As the Tigers arrived at Thompson-Boling Arena for the tipoff in this annual cross-state war, they found their hosts in disarray, losers of four of the past six games and suddenly vulnerable to whatever mid-major team wandered into town.
Let's go to the bracketologists to size up the Vols' fall from grace since that 7-0 start.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi had the Vols as a 10 seed; Jerry Palm, at CBS Sports, had them at a nine.
Neither estimation leaves much room for further slippage.
Andy Katz, ESPN's lead college basketball writer, used the term "dysfunctional" in a tweeted evaluation last week.
What a national ESPN2 audience saw Wednesday night was close enough to 100 percent functional.
The Vols shot 53.7 percent from the field. And - stop the presses - they were even hotter from 3-point range at 57.1 percent.
They led by 36 points at one juncture, forcing coach Bruce Pearl to rescind his vow to stick with a reduced 10-man rotation.
To be a good sport he had to empty his bench. Thus 16 Vols showed up in the box score, and 14 of them scored.
Pearl, in fact, did limit his rotation to 10 men until after the issue was decided. Vols 11 and 12 appeared at the 4:17 mark when the score was 91-59.
All 10 men contributed. There wasn't a slacker in the bunch.
When last seen five days ago, Tennessee was getting toasted 91-78 on this same floor by College of Charleston. What changed?
Was Memphis all it took, a heated rival?
Was it the Tigers' ranking? The Vols are 3-0 against ranked teams this year, playing their best basketball against Villanova, Pittsburgh and Memphis.
This one only counts for one "W" but the Vols almost deserve bonus points for knocking out Memphis twice.
In the first half, an exchange of 3-point baskets left UT with a 14-10 lead. That's when the game changed.
Scotty Hopson started the change with a dunk. That kicked off a surge in which the Vols got points on 11 of their next 13 possessions.
When everyone came up for air, it was a 20-point game, 37-17.
Furthermore, eight different Vols contributed to the barrage.
Want more? Five of the scores were second-chance baskets, thanks to energy on the offensive boards.
Tennessee hadn't peaked yet. That came at 45-20 with 4:41 left in the half.
At that point Memphis finally achieved back-to-back scores for the first time all night.
But give the young Tigers some credit. They closed the first half with a 7-0 run and opened the second with a 5-0 spurt.
All of a sudden it was a 49-39 game and Tennessee appeared confused. A crowd of 18,884 had seen this movie before against Oakland. It didn't end well.
This one did.
Again, it was a Hopson dunk that started the recovery. And some recovery it was, 21-4.
The stunning aspect of the second-half knockout was watching Tennessee sink six consecutive 3-point baskets: two each by Melvin Goins, Josh Bone and Hopson.
The gang that ranked 296th in the nation (30.3 percent) beyond the arc was 10-of-14 before a few started rimming out.
Five different Vols hit treys. Tobias Harris wasn't among them, but his 17 points and 13 rebounds were plenty.
And now, per SEC commissioner Mike Slive's command, coach Bruce Pearl retreats into his banishment.
He will emerge after four games, Jan. 22 at Connecticut, then go back into the shadows for four more.
Whether Tennessee can maintain its precious new momentum in Pearl's absence remains to be seen.
But say this for the Vols: They sure gave Pearl a nice going-away present.