John Adams: Opportunities for major wins coming up for men's and women's basketball teams

John Adams
Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, right, and Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale watch a loose ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 72-44. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

Photo by AP Photo/Joe Raymond

Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins, right, and Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale watch a loose ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 72-44. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

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Opportunities await both Tennessee basketball teams in the next few days. The ramifications might not be apparent until March when postseason tournament selections are completed.

The opportunity is more pressing for the men's team, which is 9-7 overall and 1-3 in the SEC and can't stretch its way onto the NCAA tournament bubble at this juncture. But Thursday's game at Ole Miss could lend a helping hand.

The chances for a "good win" in NCAA tournament parlance won't come along that often in the SEC this season. The Vols already have lost to the Rebels; their only other games remaining against teams currently ranked in the top 25 are versus No. 8 Florida on Feb. 26 and No. 23 Missouri on March 9. Both games are at Thompson-Boling Arena, meaning Ole Miss is the best opportunity for an impressive road victory.

On the same day that the men seek redemption (and a better RPI) against Ole Miss, the Lady Vols can solidify their No. 9 national ranking and make further SEC headway with a victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Their greater opportunity will come next Monday at Thompson-Boling when Tennessee takes on No. 2 Notre Dame, which embarrassed the Lady Vols 72-44 about this time last year in South Bend, Ind.

The teams could enhance their chances for success with improved ball security, which will start with the point guards. The last outings for both teams were encouraging in that respect.

Men's point guard Trae Golden, who has struggled for much of this season, demonstrated against Mississippi State last Saturday the qualities that made him a more effective player last season. He had 10 points, nine assists and only two turnovers while playing 26 minutes off the bench in a 72-57 victory. He also did what he does best, driving to the basket and creating scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself.

Lady Vols point guard Ariel Massengale, who has been too loose with the ball at times this season, is coming off a proficient performance as well. She had six assists and no turnovers in a 96-69 rout of Alabama on Sunday.

A couple of other guards also should figure prominently in how both teams fare in the next five days.

UT junior guard Jordan McRae has emerged as one of the best players in the SEC. And he has been at his best the last couple of weeks, averaging 21.6 points per game for the past five games.

Another junior guard, Meighan Simmons, has played like an All-American in recent games. In the last five games, she has averaged 21.2 points and — even more significantly — made 51.9 percent of her field-goal attempts.

If the Vols and Lady Vols are to capitalize on their upcoming opportunities, they will need their hot scorers to stay hot.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 10

voloffaith writes:

Another spot on JA "Jewel". Stating the obvious is sometimes a very difficult task when the desire to pontificate greatly overrides common sense....oops almost went there myself.....Lady victory in the 'Ville much easier task than men vs bears(?) _ohnny _ebs seems more fitting........

CoverOrange writes:

Wow. The possibility of a win against Kentucky is not considered a "good win" in JA's view. Guess JA isn't a fan, or did I just state the obvious "4g"?

wigmeister writes:

Duh! Ya think!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I I don't know WHAT to say

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Wow. The possibility of a win against Kentucky is not considered a "good win" in JA's view. Guess JA isn't a fan, or did I just state the obvious "4g"?

While you or I might regard a win over UK as a "good win", they are not currently ranked, while Florida and Missouri are. However, I do think the NCAA would also see a win over UK as a plus for the Vols. The Vols have to look at every game as a challenge to be met the rest of the way, do the best they can, and hope that is enough by the time the selection committee meets.

johnlg00 writes:

The women's game against ND represents an even greater opportunity for them. It is too bad Cierra Burdick won't be back for that one, but the rest of them seem to be getting their games together at the right time. If they keep taking care of their business, they might just win out the rest of the way, including the SEC tournament. But PLEASE, Ariel, take care of the ball!

D60 writes:

Major wins for Men's BB....did I miss something when was Clownzo fired?

madrigal writes:

Adams, please leave the Lady Vols to Dan Fleser. He writes better and has a better grasp of what's going on.

maciste54 writes:

UT doesn't play enough pre SEC season games. They need at least two maybe three more. Pad the win column. Any team from the SEC with 20 or more wins stands a better chance of making the tourney regardless of RPI. Having said that they can't lose a bunch in the SEC either. I've never understood the long breaks between games around the Thanksgiving and Christmas interim.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to maciste54:

UT doesn't play enough pre SEC season games. They need at least two maybe three more. Pad the win column. Any team from the SEC with 20 or more wins stands a better chance of making the tourney regardless of RPI. Having said that they can't lose a bunch in the SEC either. I've never understood the long breaks between games around the Thanksgiving and Christmas interim.

I agree. I suppose you are talking about the men. They usually manage to get in a game over the Christmas holidays, but it is kind of annoying to see all these tournaments going on during this time which hardly ever seem to include the Vols. Not sure whose fault this is, but I would like to see the Vols in more of them. The ladies hardly ever seem to play in any of those, either, but their out-of-conference schedule is annually among the toughest in the country.

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