Vols can still finish second in the SEC

Martin: 'We are fighting for our lives'

Tennessee can finish as high as second in the SEC standings or fail to make the NIT, depending on how the Vols finish the season.

UT first-year coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday that given how the season started, he's OK with the circumstances.

"We're in a good place right now as a team because we continue to get better, and that's a good sign,'' said Martin, who inherited a team with just one returning starter. "We didn't have the luxury with a new coach of getting out of the gates with some confidence, getting your head up. We had to have some tough losses, and eventually we started to learn from it.''

The Vols (16-13, 8-6 SEC) enter into their next game at LSU (17-11, 7-7) on Wednesday (TV: CSS, 9 p.m.) competing for a first-round bye in the SEC tournament in New Orleans starting March 8.

UT, picked to finish 11th at SEC Media Day in October, closes the regular season at home on Saturday (TV: ESPN, 4 p.m.) against Vanderbilt (20-9, 9-5).

Tennessee is tied with Alabama (19-9, 8-6) for fourth place in the SEC; the top four teams receive a bye at the SEC tournament.

For the Vols to finish second in the SEC, it would take UT winning its final two games and Florida (22-7, 10-4) losing at Vanderbilt on Tuesday and losing at home to Kentucky (28-1, 14-0) on Saturday.

In that scenario, the Vols would own the head-to-head tiebreakers with both the Gators and Commodores.

Martin's sense of urgency, however, is on the basketball court, not with

the SEC tiebreaker rules and the multiple scenarios.

"We are fighting for our lives,'' Martin said. "You have to get better every day. There's plenty of work to do. Our guys are hungry right now.

"We're fighting. We don't have any luxury or margin for any error to be happy or be successful or think we've done something special. But we have every right just like everyone else to win ball games.''

Tournament Talk: The Vols, despite the possibilities, have yet to surface on anyone's NCAA at-large list of "bubble watch" teams.

While UT's RPI rank jumped from No. 111 to No. 92 in the past week, according to NCAAsports.com, there are still eight SEC teams with a better RPI rank than UT.

LSU is at No. 68 and Vanderbilt is No. 23; if the Vols beat both teams they would make a healthy jump in the RPI ranks.

Most believe it's a long shot for UT to make the NCAA tournament for a seventh consecutive season with anything less than the league's automatic bid, which is gained by winning the SEC tournament.

But it's worth noting that should the Vols win the next two games, a bit of history would be on their side. Since 1992, only three SEC teams have finished 10-6 or better in league play and not received at-large bids, according to the league office.

Alabama was 12-4 in league play last season and didn't receive a bid, largely because the Tide's RPI ranked 80th. South Carolina and Auburn, both 10-6 in 2009, were also shunned by the NCAA tournament selection committee. The Gamecocks' RPI was 57, and Auburn's was 64, according to RealTimeRpi.com.

Ticket Talk: Less than 500 tickets remain for UT's regular-season home finale against Vanderbilt Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena, and less than 100 of those feature the "Four-point play" package where fans can buy four tickets for $40 and receive vouchers for four beverages and four hot dogs.

Having at least 20,000 in paid attendance at Saturday's game will secure UT's standing in the top five nationally in home attendance for a seventh consecutive season. Schools' attendance figures are based on paid attendance.

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

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Comments » 129

mocsandvolsfan writes:

BYE!! It's Bye! Bye bye Kns.

No seriously don't you have spell check?
bye by HAH they're both right. I guess you have to know witch won two you's.

Huh? What? The article?
Oh Yeah go FIGHT win!! Rah rah ...really

Ironcity writes:

Curious to see how we play against LSU. LSU in that arena doesn't bode well for us but I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what this team will do. A couple of wins this week and who knows what happens.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Curious to see how we play against LSU. LSU in that arena doesn't bode well for us but I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what this team will do. A couple of wins this week and who knows what happens.

I don't pretend to know what the match up inside will be like...but it seems that we CAN win with too many turnovers.hah One thing for sure is that if we win with turnovers we need incredible shooting and defense. The defense will be there I think. I hope our offense is there without the sloppy fouls, ball-handling and passes.

PUL4VOLS writes:

Hey Coach Martin 16-13 is a lot better than many of the naysayers predicted. I know at least two or three of those probably should have been wins but then who thought we would beat FL twice? So go give it all you got and do your best. Overall, even fifth is a lot better than eleventh. I would love to see two more wins going into SEC tourney time but we'll have to wait and see. GO BIG ORANGE, fight your hearts out!

Dougb-VFL writes:

This team has had a roller coaster season but I believe Cuonzo has them playing with pride now and if you put forth enough effort anything is possible, including winning the SEC tourney and making the ncaa! This team will be a factor next season for sure. Does anyone know what Kenny Hall did and when or if he will be back? VFL

richvol writes:

UT has the opportunity to shock the sports world with these next two games and make a statement that we will be a force to be reckoned with going forward. If these young men get it done it will be one of the great accomplishments in UT sports history.

Tiger4Life writes:

fighting for your NIT life--- hahahahaahahaha!!

FearlessFreep writes:

Actually feel better about this team than I did about last year's underachieving squad.

volnsc51 writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

fighting for your NIT life--- hahahahaahahaha!!

Spoken like a true NIT WIT.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

fighting for your NIT life--- hahahahaahahaha!!

Do you feel big now? Empowered to rant and roar and terrorize the countryside?

On topic, play one at a time with purpose ...enjoy the game...

iadvol writes:

FWIW: A 16-16 record technically qualifies you for the NIT tourney..regardless, lets focus on wining 3 in a row and getting into the big dance!

VolsFanInNC writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

fighting for your NIT life--- hahahahaahahaha!!

Not everyone gets to play a Conf USA sched.

CoverOrange writes:

Griff, do a comparison/contrast article of UT this year to Alabama from last season. Pretty similar.

wigmeister writes:

If this team can cut down on the turnovers, and play good basketball for a whole game, we will be just fine. They have gotten so much better. Kudos to CCM and his staff. Now lets go down there and give em hell!

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to iadvol:

FWIW: A 16-16 record technically qualifies you for the NIT tourney..regardless, lets focus on wining 3 in a row and getting into the big dance!

If we finish with a .500 record we're not going anywhere because my understanding is the victory against Chamanade does not count toward tournament qualification.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to iadvol:

FWIW: A 16-16 record technically qualifies you for the NIT tourney..regardless, lets focus on wining 3 in a row and getting into the big dance!

We have a win over a D-2 squad, which the NCAA tourney folks do not count. Don't know if the NIT folks count that or not. If not, we are 15-13 and need at least one more win to guarantee a .500 record or better which would qualify us for post-season play. Better beat LSU or Vandy and hope TBA's 21000+ capacity tilts the bid process in our favor. Go Vols!!!

A_Voice_ofReason writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

BYE!! It's Bye! Bye bye Kns.

No seriously don't you have spell check?
bye by HAH they're both right. I guess you have to know witch won two you's.

Huh? What? The article?
Oh Yeah go FIGHT win!! Rah rah ...really

Haven't you learned by now, kns folks aren't very smart.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to A_Voice_ofReason:

Haven't you learned by now, kns folks aren't very smart.

Well they were smart enough to fix it. They're most likely smarter than me 'cause I DO have to use spellcheck....a lot.

VFL70 writes:

Just really like this coach. They truly play as a team; its refreshing to see.

Bubba_Knows writes:

I don't like our chances in either game. First, this one (LSU) is on the road and you know what that means. Second, I do not like how we match up with Vandy. Their defense really took us out of our offense last time we played them. Hope we at least win one of them.

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to FearlessFreep:

Actually feel better about this team than I did about last year's underachieving squad.

I agree with you. Not because they are better, but because they give more effort every game.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

If we finish with a .500 record we're not going anywhere because my understanding is the victory against Chamanade does not count toward tournament qualification.

Witch Doctor notice your Nov 29th comments(much much more than just this one...dont ya just hate when someone does this?)

"12 wins is the best we can hope for."

lol.
Bones never lie.

johnlg00 writes:

Can you imagine what this team could have accomplished this season if they could start over? I looked over the schedule and, as near as I could figure, if the Vols had been just five points a game better, their record right now would be 22-7 overall and 10-4 in the SEC. When you think about it, five points a game isn't THAT much; a couple of turnovers less, a couple more made free-throws, a couple more defensive rebounds secured. That is how fine the line is between a better-than-expected season and a REALLY good one. Earlier in the season, this team was still trying to find itself; since the SEC season started, they have been a lot better. Anybody doubt this team OUGHT to be at least five points better per game next year? I don't!

thevoice writes:

in response to FearlessFreep:

Actually feel better about this team than I did about last year's underachieving squad.

Me too. And to think Pearl thought it better to give Stephen more minutes than Maymom. Wow.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor notice your Nov 29th comments(much much more than just this one...dont ya just hate when someone does this?)

"12 wins is the best we can hope for."

lol.
Bones never lie.

Not that I would even bother to look up his posts on my own, but I would bet that even 12 wins was more than he was predicting before the season started. They were already 5-3 on Nov. 29 and two of the losses were to Duke and Memphis in Maui.

69grad writes:

Coach Martin may not have the sideline antics of BP (a great coach), but if you watch him talking with his players during a time-out, there is NO question of his intensity. And EVERY player's eyes are on him. Suit him up against Vandy and watch what happens (I wish.). He will have the Vols ready for the next two games. I hate Vandy in basketball and LSU in football...heII, I hate them both.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Not that I would even bother to look up his posts on my own, but I would bet that even 12 wins was more than he was predicting before the season started. They were already 5-3 on Nov. 29 and two of the losses were to Duke and Memphis in Maui.

Witch Doctor say his own words are his kryptonite if applied properly. lol. Witch Doctor off on his prediction on Nov. 23rd BUT Witch Doctor not as bad as him lol

"Witch Doctor say we gonna be alright. Witch Doctor say nobody gonna take the VOLs as an easy game and are going to win 17-19 THIS season.
MAYMON is a MAN among boys yesterday and Golden is a GREAT guard that will win us several games..Witch Doctor say others "games" need more attention and improvement over his...be real."
Bones never lie."

(Witch Doctor defending Golden in that post)
Bones never lie.

blazevol writes:

Even if we lose both we probably end up no worse than 7th seed in SEC tourney. That should mean a first round win which would get us to no worse than 17-16 so .500 even if you don't count Chaminade. Win 1 of these and we are no worse than 5th seed and surely at least NIT bound.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to thevoice:

Me too. And to think Pearl thought it better to give Stephen more minutes than Maymom. Wow.

I keep seeing comments to this effect, but even Maymon has said that he was not nearly the player last year that he is this year. He was not AT ALL in game shape; he probably had half his field goal attempts blocked; he shot 20% from the free-throw line; he was too slow to guard anybody. Steve Pearl didn't play because he was the coach's son, he played because the guys who were supposed to be better than he was didn't PLAY better than he did.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say in all fairness(just noticed)
Westknoxrep. did up his prediction to .500 in Jan. Witch Doctor say his picks at that time were pretty much in line. Witch Doctor call it down the middle even tho it make Witch Doctor throw up little in mouth. lol
Bones never lie.

carbonzip writes:

McCrae has become a better player that Hopson was last year.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to carbonzip:

McCrae has become a better player that Hopson was last year.

Witch Doctor agree. Witch Doctor still hope for a good end to the season(NIT?) but cant wait to see this team next year after "buying-in" to Martins system. Witch Doctor say you can see the cream starting to rise and McCrae may be unstoppable next year with a dedicated summer of weights.
Bones never lie.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Their gonna be 18 & 15 after the SEC tourney. Could win the NIT. Twenty wins would make a good season.

VolGrad writes:

If Hopson had stayed, he would either have had to improve his consistency or be riding the pine next to Woolridge by now. Tobias would have been a beast for us. O well.

I'm liking the direction Cuonzo has gotten this team headed.

Think Orange! Go Vols!!!

John_10065 writes:

in response to lakindofguy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How small a post but how big a reality.

This team has fought inside and out, fought on the court and off, and fought for self-respect and respect of their peers. They have began to understand what achieving the best they can as a team and individuals is all about.

Keep on fighting guys. Give us another win! LSU can be beaten at home and you can win on the road! So just do it!

RashaadSalabeb writes:

It's all about the ORANGE! Go Vols! Kick butt and take names!

skeenrr#652499 writes:

A 10-6 SEC record along and at least 1 win in the SEC tourney will get the Vols in the Big Dance. SEC record and late season strength will weigh heavy with selection committee.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

fighting for your NIT life--- hahahahaahahaha!!

Now this ole boys a feeling his oats after this year.. FBI and CIA couldnt have located him the last three years....Have fun there Tiger4Life....bless yo heart...I know...its tough being a Tiger fan...I used to be one...got tired of something constantly happening...Pathetic...Now if we some how win the SEC tourney (dont think it will happen but Memphis did it last year to squeeze in and granted it was in the worst league BY FAR in the NCAA) will you show your face and admit you were wrong???NAHHHHH

tennrich1 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I keep seeing comments to this effect, but even Maymon has said that he was not nearly the player last year that he is this year. He was not AT ALL in game shape; he probably had half his field goal attempts blocked; he shot 20% from the free-throw line; he was too slow to guard anybody. Steve Pearl didn't play because he was the coach's son, he played because the guys who were supposed to be better than he was didn't PLAY better than he did.

Actually Steven would be playing a lot this year because he is EXACTLY the type player that CCM likes...works his tail off and plays defense...Lot of folks dont really get it sometimes..

John_10065 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Not that I would even bother to look up his posts on my own, but I would bet that even 12 wins was more than he was predicting before the season started. They were already 5-3 on Nov. 29 and two of the losses were to Duke and Memphis in Maui.

For the record to you and Witchy, I never made a prediction except that as fans we would be more than happy with the job Martin would do this year because of his pedigree.

And that was in October.

He is going to bring smash mouth D and wide open motion offense to the SEC. I've enjoyed watching the mid-western style of ball for over almost three decades now and it's going to be fun seeing it ran in Knoxville.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I keep seeing comments to this effect, but even Maymon has said that he was not nearly the player last year that he is this year. He was not AT ALL in game shape; he probably had half his field goal attempts blocked; he shot 20% from the free-throw line; he was too slow to guard anybody. Steve Pearl didn't play because he was the coach's son, he played because the guys who were supposed to be better than he was didn't PLAY better than he did.

When I watched Maymon last year I couldn't believe he had been the Wisconsin state HS player of the year and a four star recruit, he looked so bad. But I thought Steven Pearl was an excellent defensive player. He really illustrated the old maxim that you have to move your feet to play good defense. But his problem on defense was that he was a tweener in size - he was a short 6'5", meaning he had no hops. So he was undersized to guard power forwards and a little too slow for most small forwards. Since he couldn't shoot worth a lick, he was asked to guard power forwards, and he would often get posted up and had no chance then. Of course, his other problem was offense, of which he had zero. Not a good thing. He was a decent passer. But Maymon was so bad last year that I supported Pearl playing.

Razor784 writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

fighting for your NIT life--- hahahahaahahaha!!

I've always thought it was funny when the little dog tried to jump on the big dog, hang in there Tiger High

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Can you imagine what this team could have accomplished this season if they could start over? I looked over the schedule and, as near as I could figure, if the Vols had been just five points a game better, their record right now would be 22-7 overall and 10-4 in the SEC. When you think about it, five points a game isn't THAT much; a couple of turnovers less, a couple more made free-throws, a couple more defensive rebounds secured. That is how fine the line is between a better-than-expected season and a REALLY good one. Earlier in the season, this team was still trying to find itself; since the SEC season started, they have been a lot better. Anybody doubt this team OUGHT to be at least five points better per game next year? I don't!

woulda, coulda, shoulda. Next year they'll get it right from the getgo.

murrayvol writes:

The player to watch next year is McRae. Now that he's "bought in" his upside is tremendous.

John_10065 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

woulda, coulda, shoulda. Next year they'll get it right from the getgo.

There's one thing for sure. Next year the players that return will look at the new players straight in the eye and tell them to listen to Coach Martin and do what he says. We only have one senior leaving that has significant playing time.

One thing I always look for in a college team off the court is what the players say to the media. There has been a consistancy that has surfaced over the course of the season. They talk frankly about their team's strengths and their individual weaknesses. That is what good coaching brings, humility as a player and the excellence as a member of a team with the willingness to excel.

Talent and potential mean a lot. It's the intangibles that make great teams. Coaching brings those intangibles together. We're in good hands.

lomas98 writes:

Beating lsu would set up very important game against vandy for sec tournament position. I think some forget but if we would have beat ky last year at home in the regular season finale, believe we would have had a bye and instead finished fifth in the east. One game can change so much. Beat lsu and we finish no worse than 5. Beat vandy, things will get interesting. I still think this team has to win the conference tourney to make the NCAA so winning 3 games is easier than 4.....the bye would be awesome. The article is right in that we could actually miss the nit as well, a loss to lsu would put a lot of pressure on this team to beat a vandy team who plays pretty well on the road and a team tn just doesn't match up well with.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor notice your Nov 29th comments(much much more than just this one...dont ya just hate when someone does this?)

"12 wins is the best we can hope for."

lol.
Bones never lie.

Witchy, westknoxrepubic is to busy contemplating his navel to remember what he posted way back then. Good catch though.

lomas98 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yea, I'm not sure why bama wasn't mentioned in the article as a scenario. If they lose one and everything else happens, I guess it is right. However if bama wins out, FL loses both of theirs and tn wins out, all 4 teams including vandy are 10-6 and a 4 way tie. I have no idea what would happen then since 4 teams are trying for 3 spots.

UTMaster04 writes:

Regardless, CM has got this team playing well, and I'm proud of the job he's done all things considered. We can make a strong run in the SEC tourny and have a chance to salvage what many feared would be a disastrous year. Let's make the season last as long as possible Vols. The longer the BBall season is the shorter the lull between now and football will seem. Go Vols!

1vavolfan writes:

I don't think that RPI gives an accurate picture of a teams strength, and not sure the committee does either. There are always teams that are shoes ins that are snubbed. I prefer ESPN's BPI index, that takes into account if one of your top 5 players is missing, in UT's case Stokes. UT is tied for #67 in the BPI index and ahead of Arkansas, LSU, and Ole Miss. At this point how could you have any of these teams in front of UT?

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