Fourth-place Vols still 'in a good spot'

Trae Golden is the first to tell you that he didn't do a good job getting or finding his teammates in good position in Tennessee's 62-50 loss at Alabama on Saturday.

But ask the Vols' sophomore starting point guard about the position UT finds itself in with four games remaining in the regular season, and his mood brightens.

"I think right now we're in a good spot," Golden said Monday. "Being tied for fourth is a good place to be in with four games remaining, and I think we're playing our best basketball right now."

Tennessee (14-13, 6-6) plays host to Ole Miss (15-11, 5-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday (TV: CSS) at Thompson-Boling Arena having won four straight and 10 of its past 11 at home.

Golden's starting back-court mate Skylar McBee said the Vols' thoughts don't go beyond the Rebels, who lead the SEC with 38.6 rebounds per game and rank second in league games with a plus-4.5 rebounding advantage.

"I don't think we're worried about going to the (NCAA) tournament or not going to the tournament," McBee said. "We're just focused on getting ready for Ole Miss right now."

Kentucky coach John Calipari and UT coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday that they believe the SEC will get at least five teams into the NCAA tournament.

Martin said the Vols are one of the teams outside of the SEC's top five that are hovering.

"Right now, you'd say on paper maybe five...six?" said Martin, whose team is in a four-way tie for fourth. "The guys on paper, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State ... there's five, bona fide, unless someone completely falls on their face.

"You have other teams out there hovering; I think we are. For us, it's finishing strong down the stretch and winning games in the tournament."

Calipari said he believes the Vols are one of

two SEC teams outside the current top five that are capable of going on a run at the league tournament in New Orleans on March 8-11.

"I think we've got five teams that will be in (the NCAA tournament), and if somebody crazy, one of those other teams wins our tournament, we may have six in," Calipari said on the SEC teleconference on Monday. "What our league has done non-conference, and playing each other, we've got five teams in.

"If someone goes into the tournament and goes on a crazy run, and let me tell you something, the other teams can do that," he said. "We played Tennessee, ask Florida about Tennessee, ask them. Arkansas, now Arkansas loses a tough game to Florida. They hadn't lost at home. What if one of those two teams goes on a crazy run and wins the tournament? "They're capable. Now all the sudden, we've got six teams in."

RPI Numbers: UT is currently No. 111 in the RPI rankings. Here's where the other SEC teams rank, according to the ratings released on Monday by the NCAA: Kentucky (No. 4), Florida (No. 17), Vanderbilt (No. 24), Alabama (No. 37), Mississippi State (No. 59), Ole Miss (No. 62), LSU (No. 63), Arkansas (No. 87), Georgia (No. 117), Auburn (No. 125) and South Carolina (No. 180).

Hall Suspension: Martin said there's no change in status for suspended junior center Kenny Hall, who was suspended indefinitely last Wednesday for conduct detrimental to the team.

"Kenny Hall, his status is day to day, whenever I decide if I bring him back this season," Martin said.

Hall has missed the past two games, and is neither practicing nor traveling with the team during the suspension.

Hall started 16 of the 25 games he played in this season, averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 rebounds, and he leads the team with 25 blocked shots.

Defensive Prowess: UT is allowing 61 points per conference game, which puts the Vols on pace to have their best defensive effort since the 1968-69 season.

Attendance Slippage: The Vols are still on the outside looking in at the nation's top five in attendance, averaging 17,116 per home game.

Wisconsin ranks fifth at 17,175 and has games remaining against Minnesota (Feb. 28) and Illinois (March 4).

UT has ranked in the top five in the nation in attendance the past six seasons and has home games remaining with Ole Miss (Wednesday) and Vanderbilt (March 3).

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 24

VolGrad writes:

Keep their nose to the grindstone, Coach Martin.

Go Vols! Beat Ole Miss!!!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

Just find a way to improve everyday! GBO!

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Hall apparently cannot stand success; he pees in the soup when things are going well, and did that last year...and a little his freshman year.

THAT is trouble for team members who themselves are trying to find their ways, and could get it together if they could depend on every cog in the machine;

although I find Golden's statement to be amazing, with the turnovers and lack of assists and brick-tossing-posing-as-basketball-3-point-shots from the Bama game,

that this team is playing its best basketball.

Uh, when are they doing that? Seems to me that if they do that...they win games...

supposedly, anyway.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

Hall apparently cannot stand success; he pees in the soup when things are going well, and did that last year...and a little his freshman year.

THAT is trouble for team members who themselves are trying to find their ways, and could get it together if they could depend on every cog in the machine;

although I find Golden's statement to be amazing, with the turnovers and lack of assists and brick-tossing-posing-as-basketball-3-point-shots from the Bama game,

that this team is playing its best basketball.

Uh, when are they doing that? Seems to me that if they do that...they win games...

supposedly, anyway.

Agree about Hall. It seems I remember he had a couple of hiccups earlier in his career. Even though he is one of the ones in the best position to benefit from the new start under Martin, he seems not to have bought in to the necessary extent. Hope he gets it right soon and STAYS right.

No question the Bama game was a major setback, but before that they HAD been playing well. I would rather have the players in a positive frame of mind even--or maybe even ESPECIALLY--after a bad game. His other quotes show that he realizes that he played poorly in that game. As long as he knows what he did wrong and is working to improve on those things, there is no reason for him or anybody else to dwell on the negative.

CarlChilders writes:

It's good to "play out" basketball. I'm sure the typo will be corrected by the time most read this.

BrassMonkey writes:

This team, coach, and fans are lost. We simply cannot win on the road. Unfortunately that means no tourney. Fans like to blame it on no talent but Tatum, Golden, McRae, Stokes, Maymon, and Woolridge were all highly rated recruits. We have the pieces. We just need a coach that is suitable for this level of play, and we have one that should be on the sideline at Carson Newman. Good luck winning averaging 50 points per game. It's not gonna happen.

jt45 writes:

The offense needs some work, the way I see it, thats what has been hurting them. They play much better at home where Skyler can knock down those three's. Tatum still isn't where he should be. A real go to player on offense would help, they just dont have that yet. I hope Stokes improves by next year to be that player.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

UT has played better than expected at home in the SEC this season and stands 6-0 vs the Vegas spread. The Vols can afford to foul often as putting Ole Miss on the line has proven beneficial as the Rebels shoot an SEC worst 59% from the free throw line. This could possibly be UT's last win of the year with LSU,Vandy and a road trip to S Carolina looming, so this is a do or die scenerio..A 15 point win would not surprise me here in Knoxville for the Vols, but the waters get rougher after this one. I give a big nod to the home team Vols here.

ball1523 writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

This team, coach, and fans are lost. We simply cannot win on the road. Unfortunately that means no tourney. Fans like to blame it on no talent but Tatum, Golden, McRae, Stokes, Maymon, and Woolridge were all highly rated recruits. We have the pieces. We just need a coach that is suitable for this level of play, and we have one that should be on the sideline at Carson Newman. Good luck winning averaging 50 points per game. It's not gonna happen.

First of all high recruited doesn't always equal out to being a productive player. And also its the coaches job to get them to that level. That doesn't always happen in 10months on the job. This team is improving. Players are improving. Give the man at least another season before trying to send him to jefferson city. And your comment about averaging 50 points. Did you watch the tournament at all last year. His style of play is what wins championships. Butler has made it to two final fours in a row playing that way. If you know anything about basketball you know defense win championships. Butler gave themselves a chance to win each year against teams that were a lot better because of this style of play. Not running and gunning.

BrassMonkey writes:

in response to ball1523:

First of all high recruited doesn't always equal out to being a productive player. And also its the coaches job to get them to that level. That doesn't always happen in 10months on the job. This team is improving. Players are improving. Give the man at least another season before trying to send him to jefferson city. And your comment about averaging 50 points. Did you watch the tournament at all last year. His style of play is what wins championships. Butler has made it to two final fours in a row playing that way. If you know anything about basketball you know defense win championships. Butler gave themselves a chance to win each year against teams that were a lot better because of this style of play. Not running and gunning.

Too bad when we score 50 the other team scores 65. That is not Butler's style of play it is Martin's. It will not work in the SEC on the road or when visiting non-conference foes. The Vols will get drubbed into the ground 99% of thime on the road. This will allow them to be .500 at best during Martin's UT stint. Let's face it, he cannot get it done, and our fans are so settled on mediocrity that they are pleased with .500 seasons in UT's men's athletics.

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

This team, coach, and fans are lost. We simply cannot win on the road. Unfortunately that means no tourney. Fans like to blame it on no talent but Tatum, Golden, McRae, Stokes, Maymon, and Woolridge were all highly rated recruits. We have the pieces. We just need a coach that is suitable for this level of play, and we have one that should be on the sideline at Carson Newman. Good luck winning averaging 50 points per game. It's not gonna happen.

And of those players Tatum, Hall, McRae, Maymon, and Woolridge were doing nothing under Pearl. I think its indisputable that he could coach at this level even if his scruples don't allow him.

Stokes has been in college for less than two months and didn't even play in high school this last year.

Nevermind that you just listed the rotation minus Woolridge. I suppose you're just fishing for this kind of response, so kudos. Even so, the team has gotten better and if they had been able to hit a couple threes, Alabama's defense would have shifted considerably.

Hard to throw an entry pass when the other team is bigger than you (6'6" pf anyone?) and doesn't respect the three.

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Too bad when we score 50 the other team scores 65. That is not Butler's style of play it is Martin's. It will not work in the SEC on the road or when visiting non-conference foes. The Vols will get drubbed into the ground 99% of thime on the road. This will allow them to be .500 at best during Martin's UT stint. Let's face it, he cannot get it done, and our fans are so settled on mediocrity that they are pleased with .500 seasons in UT's men's athletics.

Common misconception: coaches don't like scoring.

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

your not playing your best basketball, but you should strive to play your best basketball, 14-13 is not acceptable.

1vavolfan writes:

There will be at least 20,000 at the Vandy game. It's a Saturday, against a hated rival, and senior day.

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

There will be at least 20,000 at the Vandy game. It's a Saturday, against a hated rival, and senior day.

One wonders if the masses will turn up to watch a team that isn't NCAA tourney bound.

Expect a good crowd, but I miss the environments like when Ohio St and the Durant led longhorns came to town. The arena actually had crowd noise....

secondcreek writes:

NIT is probably a more likely spot for the Vols to land.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to CarlChilders:

It's good to "play out" basketball. I'm sure the typo will be corrected by the time most read this.

Carl,

Good point. Who is editing these articles?

Saying the Vols have won 4 straight?????????
How about the last one......didn't they lose to Alabama?

BigBadVol writes:

in response to CarlChilders:

It's good to "play out" basketball. I'm sure the typo will be corrected by the time most read this.

Nope not yet. LOL!

Vols_For_The_Win writes:

in response to CarlChilders:

It's good to "play out" basketball. I'm sure the typo will be corrected by the time most read this.

Or not.

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

TN always stinks up the SEC tournament. They have the worst record in it since 79.

murrayvol writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

TN always stinks up the SEC tournament. They have the worst record in it since 79.

Unfortunately that's the truth and it doesn't matter what kind of team we have.

We can hope.

GBOEngineer writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

TN always stinks up the SEC tournament. They have the worst record in it since 79.

yeah, but '79 was a good year!

bkgunter writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

This team, coach, and fans are lost. We simply cannot win on the road. Unfortunately that means no tourney. Fans like to blame it on no talent but Tatum, Golden, McRae, Stokes, Maymon, and Woolridge were all highly rated recruits. We have the pieces. We just need a coach that is suitable for this level of play, and we have one that should be on the sideline at Carson Newman. Good luck winning averaging 50 points per game. It's not gonna happen.

Grab your pacifier and take a time out. This team is undergoing drastic transition on the fly. There are going to be nights when it goes wrong. Coach M has several big wins, and this team has exceeded the expectations of most observers. Your Carson Newman crack proves your judgment is hopelessly skewed. And the team is not averaging 50 points. Geez--the world view from inside the crib is fascinating, though.

johnlg00 writes:

All we are saying is that 4th is better than last, which is where all the "experts" had the Vols in the preseason. If you don't see any difference between 4th place and last place, you aren't smart enough to have a valid opinion. But maybe you are one of those who thinks only first place counts for anything. If so, you must have been disappointed in UT football and basketball for a LONG time. However, since your screen name suggests you are either a troll or a professional negaVol, your opinion doesn't count.

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