Vols' school-record streak of NCAA appearances snapped at six

'We're a number one seed ... now let's roll'

Tennessee will play in the National Invitation Tournament, not the NCAA tournament, but first-year coach Cuonzo Martin says it's still basketball.

"The rims are still 10 feet, and if you're a ballplayer you can play on any stage," Martin said Sunday night after watching the NIT selection show with members of the media in the UT men's basketball office. "We're a number one seed in the NIT tournament, now let's roll."

The Vols (18-14), one of four No. 1 seeds in the 32-team tournament, open the NIT at 8 p.m. Tuesday (TV: ESPNU) at Thompson-Boling Arena against Savannah State (21-11), the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions.

UT never has faced the Tigers, but the Vols are 3-0 all-time against current members of the MEAC.

With a victory, UT would advance to play the winner of Tuesday's 9:15 p.m. game between Marshall (21-13) and Middle Tennessee State (25-6) at a yet-to-be-determined date in Thompson-Boling Arena. As a No. 1 seed, the Vols will continue hosting games until the NIT semifinals and finals, which take place at Madison Square Garden in New

York City on March 27 and March 29.

This is Tennessee's 12th appearance in the NIT and its first since 2004. The Vols have never won the NIT and enter Tuesday's action having lost four straight NIT games dating back to a 1992 win at Alabama-Birmingham.

Martin put his team through a short practice on Sunday before watching the NCAA tournament selection show in private with his team.

"The guys were into practice, because we made them be into it with some of the drills we did ... so they didn't have a choice but to be into it," Martin said with a chuckle. "I thought it was important we watch the (selection) show together as a team, whether we were in or out. The guys were fine; of course they wanted to get in, thinking maybe it was 50-50, but they'll be fine."

It's the first time the Vols haven't played in the NCAA tournament in seven years, ending a streak of six straight appearances that stands as the school record and was the longest-active streak in the SEC.

Martin, whose team was picked to finish 11th in the SEC and lost four starters off last season's team, said that for him, it was a matter of being realistic about not making the NCAA tournament.

"As a coach, I can't be upset because of the progress we made," Martin said. "Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament every year, and barring injuries, we have the talent to do that every year.

"But this isn't disappointing this season considering where we started from."

Former UT coach Don DeVoe, who serves on the NIT selection committee, said the Vols could make great strides by playing deep into the NIT.

"Cuonzo did a great job and Tennessee deserved the opportunity to extend their season," DeVoe said Sunday night. "I know a lot of people are disappointed they lost to Ole Miss, but this can be a really special thing for the team and a springboard into the future."

The Vols won eight of their past 10 games under Martin, finishing second in the SEC via tiebreaker with a 10-6 league mark. A costly 77-72 overtime defeat to Ole Miss in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament on Friday in New Orleans Arena popped UT's NCAA tournament bubble.

Tennessee finished with the No. 85 RPI and the No. 40 strength of schedule. Savannah State has the No. 191 RPI and earned an automatic bid to the NIT by winning the MEAC's regular-season crown. The Tigers had won 13 in a row before losing to Hampton in the first round of the MEAC tournament.

The Vols have a 12-11 all-time mark in the NIT in 11 previous trips but have failed to get out of the first round in their past three appearances.

UT's most recent NIT appearance, in 2004 under former coach Buzz Peterson, ended with an opening-round loss at George Mason, 58-55. Peterson's Vols were knocked out of the NIT in Thompson-Boling Arena the season before, falling to Georgetown, 70-60, in 2003.

In 1996, coach Kevin O'Neill was at the helm when the College of Charleston came into Knoxville and eliminated the Vols in the first round by 55-49 count.

The 1992 Vols were the most recent to score a victory in an NIT game, winning at Alabama-Birmingham, 71-68, under coach Wade Houston. Houston's Vols were then eliminated in the second round at Virginia, 77-52.

Martin's Missouri State team played in the NIT last season after finishing with a 26-9 record and the No. 43 RPI. The Bears were left out of the NCAA tournament after failing to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Missouri State beat Murray State, 89-76, before being eliminated at Miami, 81-72.

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

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Comments » 60

Orangeblood13 writes:

Bring out the gimps (trolls)

Good year boys, let's work toward getting better starting now
For next year

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Here's the deal: each year there's 2-3 teams that get into the Big Dance that make everyone go "Huh? How'd that happen?"

Would love to see have seen this year's team make it but we didn't make a clear-cut case for a tourney bid. When that happens, you put yourself at the mercy of the Selection Committee. Win 21 or 22 games and go 10-6 in your conference, it's much easier to get in.

Overall, proud of this year's team. No way that Pearl would have had these guys over .500 with the system he ran. Proud of my BasketVols and the effort they put forth this year.

Finally, it's soooo NICE to see a UT team play defense. Go Big Orange!

RoadTrip writes:

They need to take the NIT serious with the young club they have. More practice and games for the inexperienced players can help prepare them for the next season. A few more weeks to stay in basketball shape wouldn't hurt.

Could have been the dance except for Austin Peay, Oakland, and the last Ole Miss loss.

huntined#565710 writes:

Guess we don't dance in the BALLROOM just have to see how we can do in the BARN DANCE.

VolzsFan writes:

The committee should focus on what teams did as oppose to what they did not do. Tenn DID have better wins than most and had a better record vs the field as well as more top 50 wins than most that got in below the top 4 seeds. Sad that a NC State can get in while beating no one. BYU and Iona, faagitaboutit. But hey, they also had their chance and blew it. Need shooters to win that simple. Tenn has 2, Golden and McBee.

Now Tenn has the only SEC head coach to never coach in the big dance. Oh well. The good news is a nice run in the NIT usually helps the next year and with all the 4 and 5 star guys and top 100 recruits back next year, they should do well.

westknoxrepub writes:

That's what happens when you make rash decisions. Oh well, most of the people on this board are ok with being in the tournament for 69th place. Next year we might make it, but after that if recruiting doesn't improve, it'll be a LONG trip back.

VolzsFan writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

That's what happens when you make rash decisions. Oh well, most of the people on this board are ok with being in the tournament for 69th place. Next year we might make it, but after that if recruiting doesn't improve, it'll be a LONG trip back.

There are 31 automatic NCAA bids. About 25 of them would get beat in the first round of the NIT. Of the 68 NCAA teams, about 20-25 could win the NIT.

AllVols16 writes:

The Vols Defense will only get better during this off season. Also, Stokes will get alot more muscle on him this summer! Plus, getting to know the offense and defense better! Stokes may very well be the 2013 SEC Player of The Year!

brokendownoldvol writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

They need to take the NIT serious with the young club they have. More practice and games for the inexperienced players can help prepare them for the next season. A few more weeks to stay in basketball shape wouldn't hurt.

Could have been the dance except for Austin Peay, Oakland, and the last Ole Miss loss.

What did Johnny Majors used to say after all of his losing seasons? Oh yeah, " If its and buts where candy and nuts oh what a Merry Christmas it would be".

rtrchatt writes:

Anyone know how many times the Vols have made the
ncaa tourney?

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

There are 31 automatic NCAA bids. About 25 of them would get beat in the first round of the NIT. Of the 68 NCAA teams, about 20-25 could win the NIT.

Yeah but they're not in the NIT, they're in the NCAA tournament and we're not. The point of this whole thing is we're not in the NCAA tournament, and that's not good. Any season we don't make it to the NCAA tournament is a disappointing season.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Over 110 teams had a 20+ game winning season. Only 67 got in (WVU didn't have 20 wins, but got in) It was still a great season considering where this team was predicted to finish in the SEC an a new coaching staff coming on board. Use the NIT to continue to jell this team together, recruit good players off season and schedule competitive teams to build the rpi.

MidTennVol writes:

Nice summary, Griff.

AllVols16 writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And you saw what liein and cheating got him FIRED!! Not suprised at all!

SGTSpurge writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Yeah but they're not in the NIT, they're in the NCAA tournament and we're not. The point of this whole thing is we're not in the NCAA tournament, and that's not good. Any season we don't make it to the NCAA tournament is a disappointing season.

westknox, first I want to say that I wish you would change your screen name. You are a disgrace to Republicans from West Knoxville. That said, the NIT is not for "69th place." As said earlier, only about 20 or 25 NCAA bound teams could actually win the NIT. The only reason why those teams are in the NCAA is because they got hot at the right time and luckily won their conference tourneys. UT had a great season, considering they were picked to finish 11 out of a 12 team conference. No, no NCAA tourney this year. Disappointing? Sure. A bad sign of things to come? Nope. Not at all. This team looks like it is a #1 seed in the NIT. Not at all terrible. Who knows? Maybe this Vols team will beat the snot out of the NIT field and claim a NIT national championship. I would take that. After all, finishing 1st in the NIT is way better than finishing last in the NCAA. JMHO. Go Vols! Win this NIT!

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Yeah but they're not in the NIT, they're in the NCAA tournament and we're not. The point of this whole thing is we're not in the NCAA tournament, and that's not good. Any season we don't make it to the NCAA tournament is a disappointing season.

But you can use the NIT to build on. Look at Wichita State's team. They didn't make it last year, but now they are in it. You forget this team wasn't expected to finish where it did. This team is headed in the right direction.

thevoice writes:

I was hoping for a typo and UT to get in with a 4 seed. Oh well.

BigOrange_supporter writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

That's what happens when you make rash decisions. Oh well, most of the people on this board are ok with being in the tournament for 69th place. Next year we might make it, but after that if recruiting doesn't improve, it'll be a LONG trip back.

I'm ok with it, GBO, and go all other sec teams in the big dance.............wohoooooooo.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

can anyone say thanks martin,a good coach with the load of talent we have would have got us in,like ive said all year and everybody wants to jump all over me about it which is ok i can take it....this coach aint a sec coach,heck he's tickled to get a NIT invite cause hes never had that in his past

Razor784 writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Anyone know how many times the Vols have made the
ncaa tourney?

We've been in 19 tourney's, not sure about our overall record though

Nunshalpass writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

can anyone say thanks martin,a good coach with the load of talent we have would have got us in,like ive said all year and everybody wants to jump all over me about it which is ok i can take it....this coach aint a sec coach,heck he's tickled to get a NIT invite cause hes never had that in his past

What are you smoking?

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

But you can use the NIT to build on. Look at Wichita State's team. They didn't make it last year, but now they are in it. You forget this team wasn't expected to finish where it did. This team is headed in the right direction.

Eh, Pearl's guys and Stokes, who is more or less a Pearl guy are the reason we didn't have a losing season. So far Martin's recruited a bunch of Atlantic Sun calibur players, so in two years it's going to get ugly unless he's able to bring in one hell of a freshman class.

wigmeister writes:

OOPS!!!!!!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Eh, Pearl's guys and Stokes, who is more or less a Pearl guy are the reason we didn't have a losing season. So far Martin's recruited a bunch of Atlantic Sun calibur players, so in two years it's going to get ugly unless he's able to bring in one hell of a freshman class.

STILL can't spell "calibEr" but you continue to pontificate nonsense. Just shows how impermeable your rock-hard head is to knowledge in general. I admit no one can confidently predict how Martin will recruit or how well the guys he has gotten will develop, but you were just SURE he would finish last THIS year, weren't you? It is amazing the number of things you are or were sure about that didn't happen the way you thought, but you are still SURE you can predict the future. You don't even understand the past when it unfolded right in front of you.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Nunshalpass:

What are you smoking?

Clearly it is something that REALLY messed up his mind! Crystal meth, maybe? Crack cocaine?

secondcreek writes:

I miss Bruce Pearl already.

topvol1 writes:

Put it this way...This year when the Vols didn't make the NCAA tournament was a WHOLE lot better than last year when they did. I like a lot of what I've seen this year. I can't say that of last year after the Pitt game.

underthehill writes:

Pre season pick for 11th..finished 2nd..in Martin's first year..NIT is over acheivement..good for recruiting and good for the guys who got it done..looking good..

lyafarre writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

can anyone say thanks martin,a good coach with the load of talent we have would have got us in,like ive said all year and everybody wants to jump all over me about it which is ok i can take it....this coach aint a sec coach,heck he's tickled to get a NIT invite cause hes never had that in his past

Did you even read the article?

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Eh, Pearl's guys and Stokes, who is more or less a Pearl guy are the reason we didn't have a losing season. So far Martin's recruited a bunch of Atlantic Sun calibur players, so in two years it's going to get ugly unless he's able to bring in one hell of a freshman class.

You're an Atlantic Sun level blogger at best trying to discuss an SEC level team. Where we're you when we beat Florida and Vanderbilt? I called you out and you were not man enough to show your face. Kinda funny how you so conviniently show up during down times but can't man up and show your face when good things happen. You are a pathetic chump. Yeah I said it, you are a pathetic chump. Who would you like to have seen take the job? I'm betting your list of candidates would have laughed in your face thinking they would take the job during an NCAA investigation. That's what you don't understand, yeah Pearl did good things at UT. In the middle of his tenure he had this an attractive place to be for other coaches. Had he left then we could have hired a really good coach. But when he left he left a trail of carnage behind him. Turns out we got a good coach anyway. And Coach Martin really put his reputation on the line by taking this job with so much uncertainty surrounding the program. So keep blowing your rash all you want. You've posted more on this thread than you have in the last month. Again, funny coincidence? I think not. You are a pathetic chump. Do me a favor... Go look in the mirror and slap yourself. Just do that one thing for me, PLEASE?

bigdisbig writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You gotta get over Pearl. He was a great coach but he is not our coach because he made some very bad decisions. He did it to himself. There is not a university in the land that would have kept him with the looming NCAA sanctions to be faced.

Like it or not Cuonzo is our coach and he did a good job with what he had this year. These guys were terrible at the first of the year and turned it around. They were picked to finish next to last in the SEC and he got us to a tie for second. PEARL IS GONE AND ITS HIS OWN FAULT.

bigdisbig writes:

in response to BigOrangeSmoker:

can anyone say thanks martin,a good coach with the load of talent we have would have got us in,like ive said all year and everybody wants to jump all over me about it which is ok i can take it....this coach aint a sec coach,heck he's tickled to get a NIT invite cause hes never had that in his past

Hey smokey, if you say Cuonzo is not an SEC coach then 8 other SEC schools don't have an SEC coach either. Only 4 SEC schools made it to the NCAA Tourney. Cuonzo came close with some rag tag players.
Go back to smoking your scat and try to get over being stupid.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Eh, Pearl's guys and Stokes, who is more or less a Pearl guy are the reason we didn't have a losing season. So far Martin's recruited a bunch of Atlantic Sun calibur players, so in two years it's going to get ugly unless he's able to bring in one hell of a freshman class.

Didn't you pick us to finish last with a sub 500 record this year? We finished second. So Since you are saying Martin can't recruit, I'm hoping that means we are about to bag a bunch of 4 and 5* guys. That would be consistent with your track record on your other predictions. So PLEASE PLEASE keep saying Martin can't recruit. That should ensure that we will have top classes year in and year out.

As for the NIT, last years team would have been best served to be in the NIT. That crushing loss to Michigan was an embarrassment and a disgrace to the program. Add that to the NCAA allegations talk that was mentioned every other TV time out. That team had 2 5* players and a slew of 4*s and is one of the most underachieving teams in the history of this program. Other than that, I don't have much to say.

bobe4544 writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

Here's the deal: each year there's 2-3 teams that get into the Big Dance that make everyone go "Huh? How'd that happen?"

Would love to see have seen this year's team make it but we didn't make a clear-cut case for a tourney bid. When that happens, you put yourself at the mercy of the Selection Committee. Win 21 or 22 games and go 10-6 in your conference, it's much easier to get in.

Overall, proud of this year's team. No way that Pearl would have had these guys over .500 with the system he ran. Proud of my BasketVols and the effort they put forth this year.

Finally, it's soooo NICE to see a UT team play defense. Go Big Orange!

Disagree, Pearl would have us in the NCAA Tour.

bobe4544 writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

That's what happens when you make rash decisions. Oh well, most of the people on this board are ok with being in the tournament for 69th place. Next year we might make it, but after that if recruiting doesn't improve, it'll be a LONG trip back.

Totally agree. Martin 5 years and done.

AFTiger writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're having a hard time with all this, aren't you?

kazoo writes:

We had a chance to get into the tourney and then gagged against ole miss. The losses to austin peay and charleston were very costly with respect to getting into the tourney. Need more depth next year.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to ScoonerTN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

IMO, the loss to Vandy was a good loss. Although talented, UK has a young team. Let's them know that they can be beat if they don't bring their A game. Can help keep a young team hungry. I'm not a UK fan AT ALL, but do wish you guys luck. Cal pulled for UT to get in REALLY hard. The last time he did, UT wasn't even brought up, he just came out of left field boasting about UT. He done so several times this season and has had nothing but good things to say about our coach and our program. Wasn't the case with Pearl. Not just with Cal, but it seemed like none of the opposing coaches in the league liked Pearl. Everyone (me included) thought it was because of his success. I can't help but wonder if it had more to do with character. These coaches know each other behind closed doors and they know FAR more than we do about each other.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to bobe4544:

Disagree, Pearl would have us in the NCAA Tour.

I'm confused. Guys like you keep saying Pearl would have us in the tourney. He's currently serving a show cause . Am I missing something?.... Are they now letting guys with show cause coach? Just don't see how folks keep overlooking that. Pearl won't be getting anyone to the big dance for a few years. Damn sure wouldn't have this one in it.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

BOOM!!! #1 NiT seed. Will get to see them play in Knoxville! Now let the haters hate, I don't care. I'll be there to support my team with pride!

thevoice writes:

Savannah State? I thought they were a community college. I like our seeding: No. 1!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ScoonerTN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Oh, come on, Scooner! UConn just barely stumbled into the tournament at ALL; heck, even our lowly Vols beat them! They probably wouldn't have made the tourney in the first place if they weren't, well, UConn and in the Big East. Surely there is SOMEBODY in your bracket you could reasonably fear more than UConn. Would you feel better if they just canceled the tournament and mailed you the trophy? Shouldn't a true champion be expected to beat SOMEBODY good to win it all?

vol75 writes:

in response to secondcreek:

I miss Bruce Pearl already.

A great coach does not focus on who is not there. He focuses on who is. Fans should do the same. Cuonzo Martin has more upside to build a solid program than Pearl, who was great for the program for a period of time. Martin is built to last. He will recruit. What kid would not want to play for him?

Razor784 writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

BOOM!!! #1 NiT seed. Will get to see them play in Knoxville! Now let the haters hate, I don't care. I'll be there to support my team with pride!

I'll be there too, let's rock the house, GBO

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

I'm confused. Guys like you keep saying Pearl would have us in the tourney. He's currently serving a show cause . Am I missing something?.... Are they now letting guys with show cause coach? Just don't see how folks keep overlooking that. Pearl won't be getting anyone to the big dance for a few years. Damn sure wouldn't have this one in it.

Eh, mere details that such great brains as boobie and Linda can't be bothered with. In their "cloud-cuckoo land", annoyances like the NCAA don't exist.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to Razor784:

I'll be there too, let's rock the house, GBO

YEAH MAN!!!!!!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Eh, mere details that such great brains as boobie and Linda can't be bothered with. In their "cloud-cuckoo land", annoyances like the NCAA don't exist.

Funny how that works.

GerryOP writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

That's what happens when you make rash decisions. Oh well, most of the people on this board are ok with being in the tournament for 69th place. Next year we might make it, but after that if recruiting doesn't improve, it'll be a LONG trip back.

Well lil' westie, let me be the 1st to congratulate you. You finally got something right about this year's basketVols ... they didn't make the NCAA tourney.

However, EVERYTHING else you predicted was wrong. You said maybe 10 wins, they got 18. You said 4-5 SEC wins, they got 10. You said lower half of the SEC, they finished tied for 2nd. And no, Stokes was not a Pearl recruit.

And no, I doubt if many of us "are ok" with being in the NIT. But, compared to what folks like you and other so-called experts predicted, we're damn proud of our Vols. Based on the toxic mess that Pearl left behind, what Coach Martin accomplished is nothing short of miraculous.

The encouraging thing is that you continue to predict failure for Coach Martin and his team. At your current "win" rate, our basketVols will do quite well.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Well lil' westie, let me be the 1st to congratulate you. You finally got something right about this year's basketVols ... they didn't make the NCAA tourney.

However, EVERYTHING else you predicted was wrong. You said maybe 10 wins, they got 18. You said 4-5 SEC wins, they got 10. You said lower half of the SEC, they finished tied for 2nd. And no, Stokes was not a Pearl recruit.

And no, I doubt if many of us "are ok" with being in the NIT. But, compared to what folks like you and other so-called experts predicted, we're damn proud of our Vols. Based on the toxic mess that Pearl left behind, what Coach Martin accomplished is nothing short of miraculous.

The encouraging thing is that you continue to predict failure for Coach Martin and his team. At your current "win" rate, our basketVols will do quite well.

Careful Gerry. Last time you called him Westie, he somehow twisted that into you calling him a racist.

GerryOP writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Careful Gerry. Last time you called him Westie, he somehow twisted that into you calling him a racist.

Whatever ... I'll risk it!

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