Mike Strange: Is routing Kentucky proof the Vols are ready to surge?

Mike Strange
Tennessee guard D'Montre Edwards (32) and Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin (10) exchange words during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. A technical foul was called on Goodwin and Tennessee's Brandon Lopez after the exchange. Tennessee won 88-58 over Kentucky. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard D'Montre Edwards (32) and Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin (10) exchange words during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. A technical foul was called on Goodwin and Tennessee's Brandon Lopez after the exchange. Tennessee won 88-58 over Kentucky. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Cuonzo Martin talks about a rout of Kentucky

It might surprise you to hear Jarnell Stokes' favorite moment of Tennessee's out-of-the-blue bashing of the Big Blue on Saturday.

It wasn't dunking on a fast break after swiping a Kentucky pass, although that happened.

It wasn't diving on the floor to recover a potential turnover and feeding Armani Moore for a crowd-rousing bucket, although that happened, too.

It wasn't overpowering a hapless Wildcat for an offensive rebound and scoring to put the Vols up by 37 points, although — incredibly — that happened too.

No, it was sitting on the bench. Really. Sitting.

Sitting there with "my guys" Trae Golden and Jordan McRae, he said, their day's work done, watching Tennessee subs put the finishing touches on a spectacular and unexpected 88-58 drubbing of No. 25 Kentucky.

"We were reflecting,'' Stokes said.

They were reflecting back over the struggles — most of them unanticipated — this Tennessee season has seen.

They were reflecting on what exactly this show of force, an absolute beatdown, means in the grand scheme of things.

What does it mean?

At the very least, it was a grand day for every tier of UT's program, from the team to the staff to the fans, including Tobias Harris and Phillip Fulmer, who rocked Thompson-Boling Arena.

It was time for Tennessee to hold up its end of the rivalry after Kentucky had won nine of the past 10 games and six in a row. Mission accomplished.

It means coach Cuonzo Martin has a crowd-pleasing marquee win for his second season.

Last year, Martin's first UT squad twice upset top-15 Florida teams and also took down No. 13 Connecticut, the defending national champion.

This year's banner day had been beating No. 23 Wichita State in December. That's a fine win, but it doesn't resonate like hammering an SEC rival, especially Kentucky. Mission accomplished.

But the most meaningful interpretation would be that Saturday was proof this team is building — finally — for a stretch run just as it did a year ago.

Martin's first team started 2-5 in SEC play then won eight of its last nine regular-season games.

This team was 3-6 in SEC play just 10 days ago after a listless home loss to Georgia. Even the NIT bubble was suddenly slippery.

Then the Vols followed a win at South Carolina with a win at Vanderbilt. OK, they beat two bad teams, but there were encouraging signs.

Stokes has been on a belated rampage. In the two road wins, Golden emerged from a perplexing slump.

Golden was never better than Saturday when he scored 24 points, dished out eight assists and handled the ball flawlessly.

"The last three games this is the Tennessee team I'm accustomed to seeing,'' said Martin.

"When (Golden) plays the way we expect him to play, everything falls in line and it becomes a fun game.''

At last, Stokes, Golden and McRae, UT's key trio, are playing well together.

"Your best players have to be what they are,'' Martin said.

And to mount a late-season push, it helps if your complementary players are what they are too.

Skylar McBee's 3-point shooting is warming up. He was 3-for-3 against Kentucky. Kenny Hall, the other senior, showed up big Saturday, which is always a bonus.

So Saturday provided ample fodder for reflection.

"It means nothing if we go in the next game and shoot 20 percent from the 3-point line,'' said Stokes. "It means nothing if it doesn't carry over.''

Next up is LSU on Tuesday, the first of six remaining regular-season games, evenly divided between home and road.

Nobody in the SEC would have wanted to tangle with Tennessee on Saturday. At the least, it was a great day, the best day of the season so far.

But if it does carry over, it could become something so much bigger.

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2013 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 43

mocsandvolsfan writes:

yep. We are ready. Golden's ready. McRae's ready. Stokes' ready. Moore's ready. I think Edwards maybe on offense. McBee's hittin'. Hall's playin' hard. I didn't see any slackers today really. I think we're ready.
I guess we'll find out against Florida for sure.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

ps... Richardson may need to heal a little.lol That was hustle there.

BackAShoneysnFleas writes:

I loved watching this game. But - it's easier to get up for the big games. I hope they keep up the effort for the lower & mid tier opponents. I wouldn't be surprised to see them drop some of the next few games to teams they should otherwise beat. We may not see them keyed up like today until they play Florida.

creekroad writes:

Still not a rivalry Strange?....only one tangoed today & it was the Vols....way to go Big Orange!!!

123forVOLS writes:

Let's leave the analysis for later. This was a great team effort and huge win over the lately invinciKats who just came down to earth. The Vols did what they can do if they keep it together. Can they beat FL? Yes they can but it will have to be an effort like yesterday and granted FL will be a little more ready after seeing that display. It was great to see them pour it on and keep pouring it on. GO BIG ORANGE!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

First game we had all the guards playing and shooting well and all on the same page..Most of our guards towered over KY and Mays;a defensive liabilty got schooled..Certainly some of this success is reward for hard work put in but is quickly undone by another 30 percent shooting game

johnlg00 writes:

My answer to Mike's question is that PROOF is a strong word. It is a judgment that can be made only after all the EVIDENCE is in. The UK game is one strong piece of evidence that they CAN make a stirring run. As I have said before, there have been previous signs that the team was improving in several critical areas, though too often masked by sloppy ball-handling.

To me, the best sign yesterday was that the Vols romped WITHOUT dramatic scoring outbursts by Stokes and McRae. Golden did have such an outburst, but not by doing things he can't do on a fairly regular basis. In short, the only thing truly extraordinary about the UK game was that the Vols AS A TEAM did all the ORDINARY things good teams do to win as a matter of habit. They have assembled all the elements of a formula that should be repeatable. Can they still stumble? Of course. It will be a major test of their maturity and poise to keep it going when the opponent is less distinguished and the crowd is not so supportive and the outside shots aren't falling and the national spotlight isn't on them. They could again be sabotaged by illness or injury.

Still, I think yesterday's game was the culmination of a process the team has been perfecting even when the final results were less than ideal. It all came together for them yesterday. It is now up to them to KEEP it together by just doing what they have mostly BEEN doing for a few weeks now. If they can keep this habit of strong TEAM play going, then we can be sure that they have PROVEN a strong case for, dare I say it, the NCAAs.

hikerdude writes:

The answer to the headline question is "no". We have won three in a row, but none of the opponents was very good. We won't have proof of a surge until the season is over.

laraccoon writes:

Strange is easily the best journalist on the staff at KNS ,IMO , but i have to say i thought it was in poor taste for him to snap photos of Richardson with his phone while Richardson was laying face down on the floor yesterday .

bigdisbig writes:

The Florida game will show if the Vols are for real. They have beat no one yet. You can say Ky. was a great win but in reality Ky. is not the Ky. we are all used to seeing. Ky is weak and will do good to win another SEC game without Noel. The games at Texas A&M and Missouri will be very tough. I was impressed with the way they played against the Cats but its the only great game they have played all year long in reality. All you delusional fans can hate on me all you want but I guess YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!! LMAO

jmaples54 writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

all time largest margin of victory against "best" basketball factory in the game? sorry but that is that big of a deal.
can you not see the forest for the trees? this season will fade in memory, but a 30-point whacking of the "big blue" will never be forgotten by vol fans. of which you apparently are not one.
also for you cuonzo deniers, he continues a nice little streak of beating the defending national champs.

jmaples54 writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

The Florida game will show if the Vols are for real. They have beat no one yet. You can say Ky. was a great win but in reality Ky. is not the Ky. we are all used to seeing. Ky is weak and will do good to win another SEC game without Noel. The games at Texas A&M and Missouri will be very tough. I was impressed with the way they played against the Cats but its the only great game they have played all year long in reality. All you delusional fans can hate on me all you want but I guess YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!! LMAO

for referring to ccm as a "lower-level coach" as well as your ignorant bloviating you will forever be known on this site as Lower Level Person.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

The Florida game will show if the Vols are for real. They have beat no one yet. You can say Ky. was a great win but in reality Ky. is not the Ky. we are all used to seeing. Ky is weak and will do good to win another SEC game without Noel. The games at Texas A&M and Missouri will be very tough. I was impressed with the way they played against the Cats but its the only great game they have played all year long in reality. All you delusional fans can hate on me all you want but I guess YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!! LMAO

No, we can handle the truth. We have all been disappointed when the team plays poorly. The thing is, you want to blame all their failures on the coach while giving him no credit for the wins. You can't have it both ways.

One says of a team that puts it all together that they have gelled. Like crystal formation, a lot of factors have to be present before a compound suddenly changes from one state into another. If you were watching closely, as I was, you could have seen the signs that this team was on the verge of a major transformation.

The first sign was when Stokes was given more freedom to operate outside the lane area. The second was when CCM showed a willingness to play some zone and some full-court pressure. The third was when he encouraged them to push the ball up the court for quick scores rather rather than walking it up all the time. The fourth came when Golden was allowed to be the player he IS rather than trying to fit him into a role he was/is not ideally suited to fill. His getting healthy allowed his game to blossom and all else followed from that.

It is legitimate to wonder why it took so long for all this to happen, but starting the season without one of the team's main drive wheels, Maymon, meant that much of what the team was doing last year no longer applied. There were several freshmen who have been playing major roles lately who had to learn what they could and could not do on the court. Then you had arguably the team's pre-season 2d best player, Golden, go into a funk about the time the other guys were figuring their stuff out. Then when Golden came back strong, it all came together.

Your syllogism is inadequate to account for all that has gone on with this team, which is: Coach sucks, therefore team plays bad; Coach sucks, so when the team plays well, he had nothing to do with it; therefore, Coach sucks. Simple-minded theory from a simple mind.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How much did UF beat UK by?
How much of the first half did Noel play in?
Where did UF play that game?
Where will UF play UT?

Not predicting a win necessarily but it won't be a beatdown.

volnbig11land writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hahahaha,back under the bridge lil gurl.

why are you on here? paid, or pathetic??????

volnbig11land writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hey lil gurl, I'll be down on the strip next week, care to discuss further????????????

hahahahahahahhaha. beothch

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

No, we can handle the truth. We have all been disappointed when the team plays poorly. The thing is, you want to blame all their failures on the coach while giving him no credit for the wins. You can't have it both ways.

One says of a team that puts it all together that they have gelled. Like crystal formation, a lot of factors have to be present before a compound suddenly changes from one state into another. If you were watching closely, as I was, you could have seen the signs that this team was on the verge of a major transformation.

The first sign was when Stokes was given more freedom to operate outside the lane area. The second was when CCM showed a willingness to play some zone and some full-court pressure. The third was when he encouraged them to push the ball up the court for quick scores rather rather than walking it up all the time. The fourth came when Golden was allowed to be the player he IS rather than trying to fit him into a role he was/is not ideally suited to fill. His getting healthy allowed his game to blossom and all else followed from that.

It is legitimate to wonder why it took so long for all this to happen, but starting the season without one of the team's main drive wheels, Maymon, meant that much of what the team was doing last year no longer applied. There were several freshmen who have been playing major roles lately who had to learn what they could and could not do on the court. Then you had arguably the team's pre-season 2d best player, Golden, go into a funk about the time the other guys were figuring their stuff out. Then when Golden came back strong, it all came together.

Your syllogism is inadequate to account for all that has gone on with this team, which is: Coach sucks, therefore team plays bad; Coach sucks, so when the team plays well, he had nothing to do with it; therefore, Coach sucks. Simple-minded theory from a simple mind.

Excellent post, John!

What we saw yesterday can be routine next year, with the maturity level increasing and with the energy and potential that Maymon will bring back. His leadership will be a tremendous lift for this team, and the addition of Hubbs should offset the loss of McBee and Hall.

Although I am not completely sold yet on Martin, next year will be the make or break year for coach.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to jmaples54:

all time largest margin of victory against "best" basketball factory in the game? sorry but that is that big of a deal.
can you not see the forest for the trees? this season will fade in memory, but a 30-point whacking of the "big blue" will never be forgotten by vol fans. of which you apparently are not one.
also for you cuonzo deniers, he continues a nice little streak of beating the defending national champs.

You know...the guy may be right? I really thought though that we'd lose both Floridy games last year...but guess what? We did not.

I didn't want to answer the troll myself but you and others did well in that regard.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Excellent post, John!

What we saw yesterday can be routine next year, with the maturity level increasing and with the energy and potential that Maymon will bring back. His leadership will be a tremendous lift for this team, and the addition of Hubbs should offset the loss of McBee and Hall.

Although I am not completely sold yet on Martin, next year will be the make or break year for coach.

As you probably know, I have been a Martin fan since he was first hired. I had a few reservations about him, mostly with respect to the possibility that he may be too rigid in identifying with Gene Keady's somewhat bare-bones approach to the game, which I have expressed on a number of occasions, but I think I understood the overall vision he had for the team from the beginning. I knew it would take awhile for all of the players to buy into what he was selling because it was a different vision of the game than what they were used to under Pearl. Not that Pearl's vision was all that wrong but it was different, and I think Martin's is perhaps a bit more all-encompassing in the mental aspects. I think they all see it in much the same way now, but since they are all unique individuals, they may not express it on the court in exactly the same way. I think we can all agree that next year will be, perhaps not the "make-or-break" year, but certainly a big opportunity for Martin to solidify his program as a basis for continued success at a high level.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

UT may or may not have turned the corner, but they sure proved Calamari can't just throw a team together and expect to walk out of TBA with a "W". Hope UT can keep up this intensity and good play til the end of the season thru the SEC tourney..GBO!!

golfman1975 writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You have been favored virtually EVERY game the last 6 years and not exactly had great success.
Maybe you need to cool your jets.

bobe4544 writes:

Maybe someone told Martin this is a up tempo team and they cannot play slowdown ball. If he keeps playing up tempo the Vols will win, if not they will lose most of their games. Still say Martin is not the coach for the Vols long term future.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, and like last year when you said regular season games don't matter..I'm certain if UT beats FU again it won't matter, but if UT loses to FU the better team won..Gosh, you're pathetic.

FanNotSheep writes:

Agree this is not a great Kentucky team but it might be the beginning of a trend for them. You can't build depth or a real team with the star system. Nobody becomes a role player. They all want to be Jordan with no Pippin. Even before their big guy got hurt the team was only ranked because of the school name.

Vols must win out regular season and win two SEC Tourney games or win the tournament to make the NCAA field. Beating kentucky this year is ho hum, but beating them by 30 was sweet. Couldn't happen to a slimier bunch.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Kinda like when Arkansas brought reality to your precious lizards?

murrayvol writes:

Would really like to say yes but the only consistent thing about these Vols thus far is inconsistency.

As johnlg said the PROOF will be in the EVIDENCE.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to bigdisbig:

The Florida game will show if the Vols are for real. They have beat no one yet. You can say Ky. was a great win but in reality Ky. is not the Ky. we are all used to seeing. Ky is weak and will do good to win another SEC game without Noel. The games at Texas A&M and Missouri will be very tough. I was impressed with the way they played against the Cats but its the only great game they have played all year long in reality. All you delusional fans can hate on me all you want but I guess YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!! LMAO

We hate on you cause you're a Vol hating troll. Can you handle that truth?

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UT has been without their best player all year so, that just made it even. And look how that turned out. Back under the bridge, troll.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Sometimes you just have to live in the moment. Whether this is the beginning of a TN surge, who knows? But, it was a classic BEATDOWN and poor little ole KY whined from the beginning to the end. I enjoyed it quite a bit :-)

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

As you probably know, I have been a Martin fan since he was first hired. I had a few reservations about him, mostly with respect to the possibility that he may be too rigid in identifying with Gene Keady's somewhat bare-bones approach to the game, which I have expressed on a number of occasions, but I think I understood the overall vision he had for the team from the beginning. I knew it would take awhile for all of the players to buy into what he was selling because it was a different vision of the game than what they were used to under Pearl. Not that Pearl's vision was all that wrong but it was different, and I think Martin's is perhaps a bit more all-encompassing in the mental aspects. I think they all see it in much the same way now, but since they are all unique individuals, they may not express it on the court in exactly the same way. I think we can all agree that next year will be, perhaps not the "make-or-break" year, but certainly a big opportunity for Martin to solidify his program as a basis for continued success at a high level.

I like what both of you are saying except I don't agree with the "make or break comment" . Not a criticism as I think he was just using the saying to make a point.
I'm not sure there is such a thing as make or breaks in NCAA bball.lol It doesn't seem to matter whether a coach is good or great or bad or terrible but how many games he wins each and every year. Especially tournament time. SOMETIMES he's gone if he loses to a rival one too many times. Generally speaking though I think Martin's win over Kentucky was a make or break game for him and the Vols. It was much needed regardless of what some have said. A loss would have put us under the bus this season. The huge win may have saved the year. But I guess the games have to be played to know.drat

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

We hate on you cause you're a Vol hating troll. Can you handle that truth?

He obviously can't handle truth because we've won 14 games so far. How can he think we haven't won any?hehe

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Would really like to say yes but the only consistent thing about these Vols thus far is inconsistency.

As johnlg said the PROOF will be in the EVIDENCE.

"When you're up you're up and when you're down you're down." That's not as funny now that I see it typed.

SevenT writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

UT may or may not have turned the corner, but they sure proved Calamari can't just throw a team together and expect to walk out of TBA with a "W". Hope UT can keep up this intensity and good play til the end of the season thru the SEC tourney..GBO!!

Calipari walks out of TBA with a WIN every year. This year was a fluke losing Noel and a below average Kentucky team. And a Jacked up team playing above their level simply because the Big Blue is in the house.

Lock That Up

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to bobe4544:

Maybe someone told Martin this is a up tempo team and they cannot play slowdown ball. If he keeps playing up tempo the Vols will win, if not they will lose most of their games. Still say Martin is not the coach for the Vols long term future.

??? Have you ever heard of matchups? Playing up tempo against some teams may kill us. Against Kentucky it was a great plan. We've won 14 games and I didn't know if we could after losing Maymon. I don't think that "up tempo" alone is the answer. Letting them play though may be the key. Martin seems to be able to push the right buttons in struggling times. What ever has been Golden's holdup we just have to hope it's over. No more losses Golden. No more key turnovers or missed shots.
If Martin can get it done a few more games this season I'd personally vote him coach of the year. But honestly I can't wait to get Hubbs in here with some improving players all around. Right now I'd guess that Stokes will leave. But I guessed that we'd lose to Florida last year. Maybe he'll stay. If he does then Martin will have a lot to look forward to. All of us will.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to SevenT:

Calipari walks out of TBA with a WIN every year. This year was a fluke losing Noel and a below average Kentucky team. And a Jacked up team playing above their level simply because the Big Blue is in the house.

Lock That Up

Wait a sec!! I thought Kentucky fans were saying that Kentucky didn't play up to par? "Bad game" etc.? ALSO "below average"? Do ya'll have anyone on your team that's really below average? bball speaking? Golly you don't seem to think much of your team. Below average coach maybe. I can't say that with a seriousness. He seems to be a coach just struggling with youth.
Well anyhow thanks for giving UT credit for the win.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to SevenT:

Calipari walks out of TBA with a WIN every year. This year was a fluke losing Noel and a below average Kentucky team. And a Jacked up team playing above their level simply because the Big Blue is in the house.

Lock That Up

Ha ha ha 88-58
Lock that up scum bag

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to SevenT:

Calipari walks out of TBA with a WIN every year. This year was a fluke losing Noel and a below average Kentucky team. And a Jacked up team playing above their level simply because the Big Blue is in the house.

Lock That Up

Written on No Noel alters dynamic of Tennessee-Kentucky game :
There are no guarantees in life except Death, Taxes and Kentucky beating Tennessee

88-58 BWAAHAHAHA

FanNotSheep writes:

I take nothing away from Calimari's ability to coach and recruit, but he has always bent and broken rules to get where he was going. I would not be a fan of a team that hired him as its coach. I would not enjoy watching a bunch of diaper dandies who only think of themselves and never the team, never the school.

What kentucky basketball has become is an example of all that is wrong with our times and the sports we love. Just a bunch of prima donnas out for their own glory. Sort of fitting actually, since kentucky has always been an old home where they got special treatment from officials and a free pass from the media. Just keep watching that parade to the NBA kentucky fans. We will make do with the players who give their all for Tennessee.

VFL_93 writes:

I'm just loving that picture of McBee sinking that three right in front of Calimari! Can anyone say new desktop background?

VolGrad writes:

A real lame excuse being thrown out here: "Kentucky has a bad team this year."

They have a team stocked with McDonald All-American talent, lose one guy in the post, and suddenly they are a bad team. Well, they are young, yes. They may have a malcontent or two, perhaps. But anyone that wants to say a group as talented as the Cats are a bad team.... My heart bleeds for you.

Sore losers. Making excuses. Hypocrites all.

For UT, who hasn't exactly been playing well this year, to get up almost 40 pts on any Calipari group of All-Americans... that is a statement. UT arguably played their best game against a talented UK team that is searching for a compass right now. UK isn't nearly as "bad" a team as UT made them out to be the other night, even w/o Noel. And, if they fall completely apart from here on, it will haven nothing to do with talent and skill- it will be due to egos.

Call it like it is instead of whining. At least many UK fans are admitting that truth.

Now how will the "team" respond?

Go Vols!!!

VolGrad writes:

As for UT, I will admit: I thought they were pretty much toast after the loss to Georgia. And now, quite frankly, I don't know what to think about this squad.

The line up changes have been working and Trae has been playing better overall. Armani Moore has made some key shots, rebounds and steals lately. Edwards made one of the most athletic moves for a bucket coming off the bench. Maybe some of these younger guys are starting to feel their way around this offense. Stokes has just been dominant now for a while. McBee is hitting the three. If they keep that up, they could make some noise in the SEC tournament.

Maybe they should pretend they are playing the Cats in every game here on out.

Go Vols!

jmaples54 writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

how lame is posting the same thing 2 days in a row? as I said yesterday, when you put a whuppin' for the ages-- all-time biggest victory margin- on the supposed best program in the nation, IT IS A BIG DEAL.
if you are a tenn. fan, you aren't much of one. if you're a Kentucky fan, 2 bad for you. you're the one with the cooled jets, in fact your jets are about sputtered out. maybe next year, loser.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolGrad:

As for UT, I will admit: I thought they were pretty much toast after the loss to Georgia. And now, quite frankly, I don't know what to think about this squad.

The line up changes have been working and Trae has been playing better overall. Armani Moore has made some key shots, rebounds and steals lately. Edwards made one of the most athletic moves for a bucket coming off the bench. Maybe some of these younger guys are starting to feel their way around this offense. Stokes has just been dominant now for a while. McBee is hitting the three. If they keep that up, they could make some noise in the SEC tournament.

Maybe they should pretend they are playing the Cats in every game here on out.

Go Vols!

Good points in both of your posts. I don't think UK is a BAD team, they are, as you say, just young. Last year's squad was better, but they also had some more experienced guys who were also great talents to bring off the bench to help them through such few rough spots as they encountered. The loss of Noel was perhaps more traumatic for them than Maymon's loss was to UT, even though they got hammered in several games when he WAS there. After all, the Cats had played enough with Noel to count on him to erase any defensive mistakes they made. For him suddenly not to be there meant that they had to rethink almost their whole defensive strategy on the fly. The Vols would undoubtedly have been much better if they had had Maymon this year, but they went into the season pretty much knowing he wasn't going to be there.

As for the UGA game, I took that as an aberration. They had had a couple of pretty good games before that, but I also think UGA was a bit better than most people realize, including me. They lost a lot off of last year's squad, even though it was no world-beater, but Caldwell-Pope is a special player who has really energized them this year. The European guy and a few other role-players have also stepped up. I think the Vols were surprised by them, though they had no reason to ASSUME that they were better than ANYBODY else this year. Maybe the twin lessons--what can happen when they don't play well, as against UGA, and what can happen when they DO play well as against UK--has shown them how they have to play the rest of the way. We'll see if they have learned those lessons the rest of the way, starting Tuesday night against LSU, another team that might be better than some might think.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features