Mike Strange: Tennessee letting Georgetown off hook makes landing Virginia more important

Mike Strange
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin points during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Washington. Georgetown won 37-36. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Photo by Nick Wass/Associated Press

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin points during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Washington. Georgetown won 37-36. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A couple of free throws last Friday night would have delivered the SEC its marquee win of the young men's college basketball season.

Alas, Tennessee was either too short, too hard, too left or too right and Georgetown slipped off the hook with a 37-36 win.

A month into the season, that leaves Missouri's win over Virginia Commonwealth as the SEC's only triumph over a top-50 team in the RPI chart I checked Tuesday. Not much to hang your hat on.

The Vols are on the road tonight on the University of Virginia campus once strolled by Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Sampson and Derek Dooley.

A Tennessee win over the Cavaliers wouldn't rock the basketball world. It would, though, be a helpful stroke come March when the NCAA tournament bracket is filled with at-large hopefuls.

Those early-season wins and losses do have a shelf life of at least three months. In that regard, the SEC better get busy.

The SEC might dominate football, but men's hoops, not so much.

Florida (No. 6) and Missouri (No. 12) are the only teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. A bunch of SEC teams have achieved spiffy records without beating much of anybody.

The SEC went 3-9 in the recent SEC/Big East Challenge, the only wins coming from the Gators, Ole Miss and LSU.

As leagues go, the SEC is No. 8 in RPI, trailing the other five power conferences plus the Mountain West and Atlantic 10.

Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, who have been consistently good, are both awful, wiped out by graduation and/or attrition.

Kentucky has found this session of reloading to be more challenging than past ones under John Calipari. But in time the young Cats will sort it out.

Tennessee was figured for a contender and while the Vols haven't looked the part, they might yet.

Coach Cuonzo Martin planned to have Jeronne Maymon carving a swath in the paint. It remains to be seen when or even if Maymon's knee is good enough to get him on the floor.

Tennessee is at No. 133 at RealtimeRPI.com, its best win over UMass (112).

The Vols were no match for Oklahoma State (RPI 15). Georgetown (20) is the big one that got away.

Virginia is at a modest 135 but that will improve once ACC play begins.

Tennessee has two ripe opportunities looming: Wichita State at a robust No. 12 and Xavier at 35. The jury is still out on Memphis (155).

All in all, Martin assembled a non-conference schedule that should vault the Vols into the bracket — provided they take advantage of enough of those opportunities.

After the whiff at Georgetown, it's more important to bring one home tonight.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 6

1vavolfan writes:

Come on Mike, Derek Dooley and Ralph Sampson as famous alums? Ever hear of Bobby Kennedy or Woodrow Wilson? A tough match up for the Vols, Bennett's teams play similar to CCM's.

atnvol#283282 writes:

I have a bad feeling that this Maymon deal is going to be for the entire season....Vols will be just average at best without Maymon. Just seems like a curse has befell the entire athletic program. Vol fans have had very little to cheer about in quite awhile....hoping the worm turns.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

curse? what curse? Mom doesn't allow cursing.

meanwhile in real life Martin's doing a great job. We can win w/o Maymon. I hope he makes it back though.

johnlg00 writes:

The SEC's showing so far in out-of-conference play is almost shockingly bad. I didn't really expect much out of the conference going into the season, with several teams depleted and/or still breaking in relatively new coaches. Even so, one would think the SEC was not unique in this. The thing is, if you watch the good teams from other regions, the general level of execution is just not as good in the SEC this year.

There are some things that seem uniformly bad in college ball these days, such as free-throw shooting. There are decent individual shooters, but the overall level seems to be headed for an all-time low. What I am getting around to saying is that the Vols don't have to be THAT much better than they are now to be contenders in the conference. I'm just not sure how much good that will do them in the NCAAs, which they have an excellent chance of making if they play to their potential--starting TONIGHT!

Lizardgrad89 writes:

Floida has curbstomped Marquette, who was a Sweet-16 team last year, and Wisconsin, a perennial tournament team.

The class of the conference, and maybe the best in the nation, resides in Gainesville.

Basketvol writes:

in response to atnvol#283282:

I have a bad feeling that this Maymon deal is going to be for the entire season....Vols will be just average at best without Maymon. Just seems like a curse has befell the entire athletic program. Vol fans have had very little to cheer about in quite awhile....hoping the worm turns.

I agree on both accounts. I've adjusted to an IF Maymon comes back mindset as well. UT definitely seems to be cursed. A win over Georgetown sure would have helped pick things up a bit. On to the next game though.

I still stand by this. We need to hire Coach Fulmer for a year as some sort of "consultant," allow him to retire on his own terms with dignity (the way it should have happened the first time), and end this blasted curse!

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