Vols focused on Ole Miss/Auburn winner as pundits boost UT to 'bubble' status

Cuonzo Martin: 'We control our own situation'

Tennessee is on the NCAA tournament's proverbial bubble, but don't expect coach Cuonzo Martin to change the routine or lose a wink of sleep worrying about the myriad of scenarios.

"Whatever the numbers are, there's nothing we can do but play games and win games,'' Martin said on Sunday. "We control our own situation. Whoever we play against, all we can do is everything in our power to win that game.''

The Vols (18-13, 10-6 SEC) did just that on Saturday, beating Vanderbilt (21-10, 10-6) by a 68-61 count before a sold-out crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi sent an e-mail to the News Sentinel on Sunday afternoon projecting UT at No. 70 — two spots out of the field — heading into the final week of play before the NCAA men's basketball tournament's selection Sunday.

"A win at the SEC tourney makes NCAA possible,'' Lunardi penned, "two wins makes it probable.''

The Vols' win over the Commodores, coupled with the Kentucky (30-1, 16-0) 74-59 victory over Florida (22-9, 10-6) on Sunday, put UT in a three-way tie with the Commodores and the Gators. Tennessee won the tiebreaker by virtue of its 3-1 record in the series between the three schools and was rewarded the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament.

Kentucky coach John Calipari used his Sunday post-game interview on CBS to stump for the SEC, and he specifically hyped Tennessee.

"Tennessee, I'm telling you, I said it earlier, that's an NCAA tournament team,'' Calipari said.

The Vols open the SEC tournament in New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. on Friday (TV: WVLT) against the winner of Thursday's first-round game (TV: MyVLT, 7:30 p.m.) between No. 7-seed Ole Miss (18-12, 8-8) and No. 10 Auburn (15-15, 5-11).

UT beat the Rebels 73-60 on Feb. 22 in Thompson-Boling Arena and scored a 64-49 home win over Auburn on Jan. 28.

"Ole Miss is obviously a physical team that can rebound, and they have length, athleticism and toughness; their game is to grind it out,'' Martin said. "Auburn makes you work offensively, and they move the ball well on offense themselves, working to get great shots. They don't waste possessions.''

RPI Numbers: UT's RPI improved from No. 81 to No. 75 after the win over Vanderbilt, and the schedule strength is ranked No. 33, according to statsheet.com. The NCAA typically releases on Monday's its version of the RPI rankings, which are used by the NCAA tournament selection committee when picking teams. Auburn's RPI is 137 while Ole Miss is at No. 52, so a win over the Rebels would be more valuable to the Vols' RPI.

Golden Champion: UT sophomore point guard Trae Golden finished the regular season as the SEC's top free-throw shooter with a percentage of 85.6 (104 of 121).

Golden is the first Vol to lead the SEC in that category since All-American Chris Lofton shot 84.2 percent (101 of 120) in 2007-08, and he's the third to do it in the past 20 years. Scooter McFadgon shot 91.2 percent (134 of 147) in 2003-04.

Hall's Status: Martin said the status of suspended junior center Kenny Hall remains the same.

"It depends on his everyday activities and if he does the things he's supposed to do,'' Martin said. "It's evaluated day-by-day.''

Hall was suspended indefinitely on Feb. 15 for conduct detrimental to the team and has missed the past six games.

Hall, who has not practiced with the team nor taken part in team activities, started the previous two games before his suspension and was averaging 6.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 20 minutes per contest.

Maymon's Leg: Jeronne Maymon preserved his streak of scoring at least 12 points in every SEC game this season by getting 12 on 4-of-9 shooting against Vanderbilt.

Maymon, however, awoke Saturday with a sore right knee that limited his effectiveness.

"I wasn't jumping as high as I wanted to on one of my legs,'' said Maymon, who had seven rebounds. "I just had to slow down; I was looking for more contact, but I saw how they were calling the game; they really weren't calling a lot, I liked the way they handled the game.''

Vanderbilt's Assessment: Coach Kevin Stallings said UT's physicality was the difference, and player Lance Goulbourne agreed.

"The story of the game is they were just physically tougher than we were at every spot,'' said Stallings, who starts four seniors and a junior. "They played harder and tougher than we did.''

Goulbourne, whose 12 points were second to John Jenkins' 18 on Saturday, credited UT's defense.

"Their guards are very physical; (Skylar) McBee played with physicality on the perimeter,'' Goulbourne said. "They're very tough, especially Maymon and (Jarnell) Stokes.''

Big Visitor: Junior center Sam Edwards from Oakhaven High School in Memphis was at UT's game Saturday on an unofficial visit.

Edwards, 7-foot, 250 pounds, is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and has received offers from numerous schools including Memphis, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn and Nebraska.

UT remains active in the recruitment of Austin Nichols, a 6-8, 193-pound junior at Memphis Briarcrest Christian High School who is ranked No. 41 in the Rivals 150.

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

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Comments » 140

jt45 writes:

Good draw either way considering how things looked a couple months back.

GBO !

Sir_Spanky writes:

Always delighted when I see those Gators fly apart like a $2 watch.

GerryOP writes:

9 games to go! Win 'em all!

kyvol98 writes:

So, the SEC media days prediction for the Vols WAS correct. They just used Roman numerals for us! All the UK fans I talk to tell me what a good coach WE have. That is one thing I can agree with them on.
GBO!

born2ride writes:

Do these wins by Kentucky count? Or will Calipari have to vacate them like he did at Memphis and UMASS.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Do these wins by Kentucky count? Or will Calipari have to vacate them like he did at Memphis and UMASS.

When he turned 53 a couple of weeks ago, he said he was actually 51, as 2 years were vacated. Had to chuckle at that one.

orange_glory writes:

I feel we have to win at least two in the sec tournament to get to 20 wins this season and get our rpi down around 60 to go to the big dance. if not then the nit is fine with me considering where we were suppose to finish. what a great year

UT4prez writes:

I'm surprised the RPI didn't improve more. It's harder to move up the RPI ranking than down but they didn't even move 10 spots. We may still need to win the whole thing. Picking up Stokes is the x factor though. Hopefully that will be part of the decision. If not...let's just win this thing!

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to GerryOP:

9 games to go! Win 'em all!

THAT is the right attitude, and hopefull the team and coaches will decide that we just need to arrive at the tourney and kick the door down, kick some a@@, take no prisoners, and win it all. We can play with any one. We have a nicely experienced, talented, tough team gaining in confidence and coming into their own.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to UT4prez:

I'm surprised the RPI didn't improve more. It's harder to move up the RPI ranking than down but they didn't even move 10 spots. We may still need to win the whole thing. Picking up Stokes is the x factor though. Hopefully that will be part of the decision. If not...let's just win this thing!

I thought the same thing, that we would be in the low 70s beating Vandy and two wins in the tourney would put us low 60s. Looks like wins over Ole Miss (52) and Florida (20) may not be enough to even get into the 60s. No two ways about it, will have to beat Kentucky.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

I still think if we get 2 wins, we are in the dance. Even with a low to mid 60's rpi, the last month of play has been as good as any top 10 team in the country. With a little luck, Vandy will beat Ky. and we win it all. I expect however, that Ky beats everyone by double digits.

bosscat writes:

Don't forget, whether or not we get into the big dance will depend on how many conference tournament upsets there are (or aren't). With no upsets, we could get in with 1 win in the SEC tournament. With several upsets, we could be out even with 2 wins. There's only one way to be in for sure--win all three!

VOLinMAHWAH writes:

The experts picked the VOLS to finish second from the bottom, and they finished second from the TOP. Quite the turnaround that not many expected. What if they hadn't dropped that four game skid to Pitt and the mid-majors? Oh boy!!

We're now the team nobody wants to face in the tourney, and the "X" factor is Cuonzo Martin!! Coach of the Year in my opinion - working some serious magic with a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle!!

UT4prez writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

I still think if we get 2 wins, we are in the dance. Even with a low to mid 60's rpi, the last month of play has been as good as any top 10 team in the country. With a little luck, Vandy will beat Ky. and we win it all. I expect however, that Ky beats everyone by double digits.

Vandy is on our side. That would be a fun Saturday game if we both make it.

It has the possibility of helping us this year but I can't stand this 68 team thing. Go back to 64. Knock some teams down out of 1A if need be or combine some smaller conferences. Anything is better to me.

bob.bigorange#605842 writes:

well, UK would have to lose to UF because Vandy is in our bracket.
We win 1st game we play, we play winner of the Vandy/Miss St/UGA pairings.

Ironcity writes:

in response to UT4prez:

Vandy is on our side. That would be a fun Saturday game if we both make it.

It has the possibility of helping us this year but I can't stand this 68 team thing. Go back to 64. Knock some teams down out of 1A if need be or combine some smaller conferences. Anything is better to me.

I kind of agree with you on 68 however that may be the ticket to get us in this year.

bob.bigorange#605842 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

well we have Capilary on our side evidently because he said so on CBS after they thumped UF. TENNESSEE is an NCAA tournament team - pretty much his words.

voldog70 writes:

in response to kyvol98:

So, the SEC media days prediction for the Vols WAS correct. They just used Roman numerals for us! All the UK fans I talk to tell me what a good coach WE have. That is one thing I can agree with them on.
GBO!

I tried to tell you guys that Coach Martin is the man! I believe the UT coaching situations for basketball, baseball and football is in good hands.
I know some of the football fans don't think so but just wait and see, this fall will be better than most think.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

I thought the same thing, that we would be in the low 70s beating Vandy and two wins in the tourney would put us low 60s. Looks like wins over Ole Miss (52) and Florida (20) may not be enough to even get into the 60s. No two ways about it, will have to beat Kentucky.

Beating Kentucky this year at any point in SEC or NCtourney would to me be as good as an NC. I'm serious. I don't think I'm over playin' how good Kentucky is this year. I mean 5* players who actually play defense. Great defense usually.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Beating Kentucky this year at any point in SEC or NCtourney would to me be as good as an NC. I'm serious. I don't think I'm over playin' how good Kentucky is this year. I mean 5* players who actually play defense. Great defense usually.

Thing is I wouldn't be surprised to beat Kentucky...much. We have some talented players too. Our experience might can overcome. It doesn't hurt to dream a little.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Just keep winning! They can't keep us out if we do that. Keep fighting hard and give it everything you've got guys. There's no doubt about it in my mind. The Tennessee Volunteers deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament.

Stay hot! Go Vols!!!!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bosscat:

Don't forget, whether or not we get into the big dance will depend on how many conference tournament upsets there are (or aren't). With no upsets, we could get in with 1 win in the SEC tournament. With several upsets, we could be out even with 2 wins. There's only one way to be in for sure--win all three!

I made much the same argument on another thread. To refine that discussion a bit more, the biggest threat to the Vols getting in the NCAA's would be for a non-ranked team to win the conference tourney in one of the power conferences that already have several teams as "locks" to get in. For instance, if Northwestern should win the Big 10 tournament, that would likely take a spot away from a team like the Vols. If Murray State hadn't won the OVC tournament, Tennessee State would have gotten a spot along WITH Murray, even though the OVC is traditionally a one-bid league. All that just shows that there is still a lot of hay to be gotten into the barn, and the only SURE way for the Vols to get in is to win the SEC tournament, a tall order to be sure, but NOT an impossible one.

sidwalkvol writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I understand he did say that in fact. And he was giving us serious props in his post-game interview with Stever Kerr.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think he actually said it. Although UT fans have always loved to rag on Cal, he really does have a sense of humor and a very sound orientation toward the game. Those are two qualities which enable him to turn groups of all-stars into real TEAMS. FWIW, he also seems to genuinely respect what Martin has done with the Vols this year. Of course, he didn't like Pearl AT ALL, so maybe his current admiration for Martin is based in part on the fact that he ISN'T Pearl.

lomas98 writes:

The new tournament format worked this year as the top 4 teams got the byes. By the old format vandy and Florida would be playing on Thursday and bama and miss st would have been awarded byes. they still played the divisional schedule this year, does anyone know if that will be changed going forward?

keepitreal4vols writes:

we need websites to put us in the 2 spot in SEC standings. ESPN has us at #4 which makes it look less impressive.

69vol08 writes:

Regardless of what happens from here a fantastic finish to the season. Stokes was a great addition, but the whole team showed improvement and became a team. Great first year for Cuonzo...looking forward to the future of Tennessee basketball! Go Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Beating Kentucky this year at any point in SEC or NCtourney would to me be as good as an NC. I'm serious. I don't think I'm over playin' how good Kentucky is this year. I mean 5* players who actually play defense. Great defense usually.

Beating UK in the SEC tourney gets the Vols in. Period. If nothing else, it would probably get their RPI into the 40's if not higher. Also, the national "WTF!!!" factor would be off the charts.

BTW, the Vols had BETTER be ready to play Friday no matter who they draw. The most likely upset victim in tourney play is one of the teams that DIDN'T play on the first day. The importance of being in "game mode" as opposed to "practice mode" can't be overlooked. Two games in two days is nothing to well-conditioned college athletes as long as they don't get hurt or something, but coming into a tourney game rusty can cause any team to start out playing below their capability, and the Vols can't beat anybody playing that way.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

we need websites to put us in the 2 spot in SEC standings. ESPN has us at #4 which makes it look less impressive.

The way it usually works is that if two or more teams are tied in the conference record, the teams are listed in order of their overall record, even if that is not the same order as their tournament seedings.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

If we reach the SEC finals, then who will we get? Most likely the Cats, who just seem to be getting better and better. But Tennessee is getting better and better also. An 8-1 finish in the last nine SEC games is impressive, no matter who you are. Call me crazy, but if the Vols make it to the finals, I kinda hope that the Cats are there as well. Why not play the best for it all? It might be a beatdown, but then again, it might be a nailbiter like at TBA. You never know. One thing about it, it would a hardwood war for the full forty. It may not even happen. But I think I would like to see the Big Orange Hard-Hats go belly-to-belly with the Big Blue Thoroughbreds. You can talk about Duke-North Carolina all you want. I'd take Tenn-Ky any day, especially now.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to decades_vol:

If we reach the SEC finals, then who will we get? Most likely the Cats, who just seem to be getting better and better. But Tennessee is getting better and better also. An 8-1 finish in the last nine SEC games is impressive, no matter who you are. Call me crazy, but if the Vols make it to the finals, I kinda hope that the Cats are there as well. Why not play the best for it all? It might be a beatdown, but then again, it might be a nailbiter like at TBA. You never know. One thing about it, it would a hardwood war for the full forty. It may not even happen. But I think I would like to see the Big Orange Hard-Hats go belly-to-belly with the Big Blue Thoroughbreds. You can talk about Duke-North Carolina all you want. I'd take Tenn-Ky any day, especially now.

I'd love to see the current UT team take on the dukes now. We are definitely better the the UT team that lost early on. I know I know. Duke is also better. That's why it'd be such a great game now. Of course beating the cats is always a great thing. We've done it with far worse teams..YEH I KNOW they were worse then too!

Golly I hate Kentucky...every iota as much as it's possible for a Christian to hate.hehe

kyvol98 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, he really said it. I saw it on the local (Lexington) news. Actually, Cal is quite funny during his news conferences. Mathew Mitchell is quite the nut during his coaches show. Mitchell showed his office and has a big picture of Pat Summit. He stated that he has the utmost respect for her as she gave him his first job as a GA.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Beating UK in the SEC tourney gets the Vols in. Period. If nothing else, it would probably get their RPI into the 40's if not higher. Also, the national "WTF!!!" factor would be off the charts.

BTW, the Vols had BETTER be ready to play Friday no matter who they draw. The most likely upset victim in tourney play is one of the teams that DIDN'T play on the first day. The importance of being in "game mode" as opposed to "practice mode" can't be overlooked. Two games in two days is nothing to well-conditioned college athletes as long as they don't get hurt or something, but coming into a tourney game rusty can cause any team to start out playing below their capability, and the Vols can't beat anybody playing that way.

I'll always love this particular Vol team regardless of where we go from here. To go this far with no expectations is awesome.

"To dream the impossible dream...to fight the unbeatable foe(UKentucky)..." I just feel like a song! No John I am not drunk...haven't been in a long while...but if we beat Kentucky at some point this year I may have a CELEBRATION!!

TNBUBBLEHEAD writes:

Kudos to Coach Martin. Should be SEC Coach of the Year, regardless from here on in. After that Bama disaster couple weeks ago, that had to take more than magic to get this team from quitting.

1vavolfan writes:

Saw the Edwards kid after the game, he is a monster. Thanks to coach Cal after the Florida game for going out of his way to talk up Tennessee.

peerlessvolfan writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Saw the Edwards kid after the game, he is a monster. Thanks to coach Cal after the Florida game for going out of his way to talk up Tennessee.

Yes, kudos to Coach Cal for talkin' us up!

CarolinaVol2281 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think when there is a tie in the standings they list them alphabetically. So with identical conference records we are behind UF but ahead of VU.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to voldog70:

I tried to tell you guys that Coach Martin is the man! I believe the UT coaching situations for basketball, baseball and football is in good hands.
I know some of the football fans don't think so but just wait and see, this fall will be better than most think.

Jerod Morris, a blogger, who is a BIG IU fan, said we hired a gem. Even though he detests anything Purdue, he told everyone here that Cuonzo Martin was a great hire. I believed him and he was correct. And yes, I believe in in CDD as well. GBO!

wildcatbasketball writes:

Folks---Reading some of the posts!!! Coach Cal has been on UT's side since the meeting at TBA!! He is genuine in stating the VOLS are an NCAA caliber team!! I think it bodes well for UT!!

Good Luck UT- I hope you get in!! Your body of work lately has proved it and UT could be dangerous if they get in!! Totally different team than the team that lost to....well I won't go there!!!

kyvol98 writes:

in response to wildcatbasketball:

Folks---Reading some of the posts!!! Coach Cal has been on UT's side since the meeting at TBA!! He is genuine in stating the VOLS are an NCAA caliber team!! I think it bodes well for UT!!

Good Luck UT- I hope you get in!! Your body of work lately has proved it and UT could be dangerous if they get in!! Totally different team than the team that lost to....well I won't go there!!!

I agree and just hope we get to meet the best team in the country on Sunday.

SGTSpurge writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You know, there are a number of UK fans on this site who post with class and respect. Unfortunately, you are not one of them. I typically dislike Calipari, but you could definitely stand to take a page out of his playbook and show a little class. Just saying.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I know a lot of UK fans that have class. You are not one of them. You are an obnoxious, classless POS. Please just go away as nobody cares what your opinions are. Also, I seriously doubt you could pronounce 8 letters of the alphabet.
And it is CUONZO. Please get it right when you try to disrespect him.
I would gladly debate you on this, however, beating myself in the head repeatedly with a ball peen hammer, so I can be on your level, just doesn't sound like what I want to do.

kyvol98 writes:

While I have nothing but hatred for UK basket ball, I do respect the history and what they have managed to do this year. You, however, do nothing for UK basketball, and even more, advance (that means to make more... ) the stereotype that UK fans are arrogant. If you live close to Lexington, let me know. We can do lunch and have a face to face discussion.
That said, you come on here with nothing but disrespect for UT. Explain that?

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's a mighty high altitude you're flying at, mister. No one is perfect. Your team can be beaten. I'm sure you are correct that they don't fear anyone. But our team wouldn't fear yours, either. We played you a close game earlier in the season. And we have a deep bench, and they say you don't. That could be a big factor on the third day of play. I hope we meet in the tourney. Bring it on.

carbonzip writes:

KY won't have the advantages of Rupp Arena. UT might turn them to jelly.

UT4prez writes:

in response to EightLetters:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You achieved your objective of getting negative responses. Kudos. 10-6 is more than barely above .500. 9-7 and I would agree with that statement. I haven't seen the full bracket but UK should have a cakewalk to the final. Bama would be the best shot at an upset before the final and they are barely a long shot. I do hope to see you in the finals. No doubt UK is the better team but I think we would have a chance to win and it would be fun to play with something on the line. Who knows? Maybe we can find a WR to play PG. Sorry everyone. Bad joke. I don't think I've ever been this excited for a SEC tournament. In the past I've always thought it to be a coin flip as to whether or not we show up. I don't feel that way this year and would be very surprised if we don't come ready to play. Go Vols!

kyvol98 writes:

7plus1 letters has already been sent to bed. Got his footed pj's on and mommy sent him to bed.

voldog70 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

That's a mighty high altitude you're flying at, mister. No one is perfect. Your team can be beaten. I'm sure you are correct that they don't fear anyone. But our team wouldn't fear yours, either. We played you a close game earlier in the season. And we have a deep bench, and they say you don't. That could be a big factor on the third day of play. I hope we meet in the tourney. Bring it on.

I really don't think Kentucky will win the SEC Tourney. They don't have nothing to prove and will be looking ahead to the NCAA.
I also listened to Calipari's interview after the Florida game and he pretty much said that the SEC Tourney was not important. He said the outcome probably didn't change their seeding.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to Samuel_L_Jackson_dares_you_to_say_what_again:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Please go back and check my posts and tell me when I jumped on Florida ANY time. C'mon man, get real. I challenge you! Show me!

brokendownoldvol writes:

I hope Martin has his team at least show up for the SEC tournament. Pearl never did.

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