John Adams: Vols can beat history and the field

John Adams

NASHVILLE — Maybe this will be the tournament nobody wins.

Maybe after Saturday’s SEC tournament semifinals, commissioner Mike Slive will congratulate the participants, thank the fans, and wish everyone a happy NCAA tournament.

Go ahead. Pick a winner.

And for every reason you think that team will win, I will give you three reasons why it won’t.

There’s not a sure bet in the field — not when the field is on the road.

Take the average SEC team out of its home arena, and you might as well send it to Mars. It’s a league of homebodies.

Ten of the 14 teams failed to win more than one conference road game in the second half of the SEC season. Only Tennessee, which begins tournament play this afternoon, had a winning road record in the second half of the conference season.

Combine that with an 8-1 record leading up to the tournament, and that’s enough to convince you UT can cut down the nets at Bridgestone Arena.

I know the history.

You’re more likely to witness a tornado hitting the tournament venue than see UT holding the championship trophy.

A successful SEC tournament for the Vols usually means they won one game and didn’t get blown out in the second.

And that’s when they’re good.

When they’re bad, Kentucky beats them by 61 points (1993).

The Vols last won the tournament in 1979. Maybe it went to their heads.

In the 33 tournaments since then, they have won more than one tournament game only four times. In 13 of those tournaments, they were one and done.

Tennessee won two SEC tournament games in six years (2002-07). Georgia won two SEC tournament games on one day in 2008.

So why you would pick such a proven failure to win the tournament championship?

Check the competition. While UT has been building momentum, more acclaimed teams have been tripping all over themselves.

Florida is the No. 1 seed and the highest ranked team in the field. But look what the Gators have done lately.

They have lost three of their past six games and were last seen shooting as though blindfolded against Kentucky.

The Gators didn’t score in the last 7½ minutes against the Wildcats. A Florida offense hasn’t looked that bad since the Sugar Bowl.

Based on tournament history, you could make a case for Kentucky, a No. 2 seed. And if I hadn’t seen it all but roll over and assume the fetal position in a 30-point loss to UT, I might go along with you.

This Kentucky team is so un-Kentucky like, celebrity ’Cat Ashley Judd should send a stand-in to the tournament. Or wear her best disguise.

No. 3 seed Ole Miss at least has a shooter’s chance. The shooter, of course, is Marshall Henderson, who taunts better than he shoots and already has celebrated one victory in Nashville as is if it were the Final Four.

But after a 17-2 start, which included two victories over UT, Ole Miss is 6-6 in the last 12 games, and Henderson hasn’t come close to triggering a riot in an opposing arena.

Fourth-seeded Alabama has lost three of its last five games. And no team that could score only 37 points at Auburn wins three games in three days.

Missouri, a No. 6 seed, might be a better tournament pick than the top four seeds.

At least, the Tigers have come close on the road. Three of their last four road losses were by two points and the other was in overtime.

So, in a repeat of the regular-season finale — and I think the Mayan calendar will back me up on this — Tennessee will edge Missouri for the tournament championship.

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 » 8

vut5686#1405392 writes:

Wow! Can anyone think of a cliche that John missed? I think I get it: we are in the tournament so we have a chance. Good to know. Good to have the history lesson repeated, also, as if we never heard if or witnessed it before.

SeaBassHauling writes:

J stands for jack and the A stands for arse....what do you got....? John Adams

trl_x writes:

I enjoyed the article. The shots at UK and Henderson were great.

And I agree the tournament is more winnable this year than in quite some time.

Go Vols!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to trl_x:

I enjoyed the article. The shots at UK and Henderson were great.

And I agree the tournament is more winnable this year than in quite some time.

Go Vols!

JA has had some I did not enjoy but this was a good one. I can also see us beating Mizzou in the finals. BUT I think we'll need a better game than the one we last played against them.

creekroad writes:

And then along came John ............

johnlg00 writes:

It's out there for the taking as almost never before, Vols! Nobody has a death grip on the trophy going in, so you might as well be the ones to claim it. Don't give the NCAA selection committee ANY excuse to snub you. Storm into the tourney like the Vikings raiding a monastery! Pillage and plunder! Stand up and roar! GO VOLS!!!

vol98champ writes:

This was one of the few JA articles that I have enjoyed. Actually, he is spot on. Really no one deserves to win this tournament. Someone will and UT is as good a bet as any, but they better get their heads on straight in the next 21 or so hours.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to vol98champ:

This was one of the few JA articles that I have enjoyed. Actually, he is spot on. Really no one deserves to win this tournament. Someone will and UT is as good a bet as any, but they better get their heads on straight in the next 21 or so hours.

Boy, THAT'S for sure! I don't think I have ever seen a less-impressive 16 point win in my life! The only good thing about the fact that Golden, for instance, seemed to play more than 35 minutes was that he didn't seem to expend much energy doing so. Stokes should also be pretty fresh tomorrow. I think McRae could probably play 80 minutes a day almost indefinitely. He just has that wiry strength that almost CAN'T be worn down. Richardson was in a bit of a fog the whole game. And as for the passing and ball-handling, although Jimmy Dykes never used his favorite descriptive term that I heard, the Vols threw a WHOLE LOT of "high-school Harry" passes that Alabama is going to pick off for dunks tomorrow. The Vols couldn't have beaten any other team in the tournament with the kind of "effort" they showed today, not even South Carolina. They had better do some serious soul-searching tonight and come out with a whole different mindset tomorrow or we will all be crying on Selection Sunday!

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