“Bradshaw looks. Still Looking. Throws the ball to Lofton. Lofton in the corner, fall-away for the win ... GOOD!”
On the whole, Tennessee’s men’s NCAA tournament history isn’t especially glorious. There have been, however, glorious games and moments achieved by Vols down through the years.
One of them — Chris Lofton’s buzzer-beater against Winthrop in 2006 — is described above by Bob “Voice of the Vols” Kesling.
I can’t do them all justice in one swoop but I will squeeze in as many as space allows.
If you had to pick one player to anchor your All-Vol NCAA tournament team, start with Ernie Grunfeld. In his two games — both losses — Grunfeld averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds.
Except for the final score, no Vol ever had a better day than Grunfeld did against VMI in 1976 when he scored 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting and 10-of-13 free throws.
He had 26 points and 12 boards the following year in an overtime loss to Syracuse.
Bernard King is UT’s greatest player ever, but his one tournament game, the ‘77 loss to Syracuse, was merely routine. Of course for King, routine was 23 points and 12 boards.
In 1980, Reggie Johnson had a near-Grunfeldian game against Furman and got a win to boot. Johnson was 13-of-19 from the field en route to 28 points and 14 rebounds.
Poor Furman. That same day, Howard Wood set the school tournament record (minimum 10 attempts) by hitting nine-of-11 shots, 81.8 percent.
Johnson’s day was no fluke. In five NCAA tournament games for Don DeVoe, Johnson averaged 19.8 points and 8.4 boards. That average ranks third behind Grunfeld and Ron Widby, who averaged 21.5 in two 1967 games (the second a consolation round).
In 1981, Dale Ellis made 10-of-13 shots in a win over VCU. If he’d been 9-of-13, Tennessee might have lost. His final basket delivered a 58-56 overtime win.
I didn’t see that game-winner, but I can’t imagine it was more difficult than one I did witness, Lofton’s twisting, well-guarded jumper from the baseline with 0.4 seconds left to beat Winthrop 63-61.
Lofton averaged 16.3 points in eight tournament games. If Tennessee needed a free throw in the clutch, Lofton is the guy I’d want at the line. He was 22-of-24, 91.7 percent.
In a tense 2007 second-round thriller against Virginia, he went 6-for-6 in the final 18.5 seconds to ice the 77-74 win.
Another good option at the stripe? Michael Brooks was 15-of-16 and was clutch in preserving a 1982 win over Southwest Louisiana and a 1983 squeaker over Marquette.
I’d be remiss not to mention C.J. Black. Let’s have a hand for a big guy who hit 83.9 percent of his tourney free throws. He was 10-of-10 in a hard-earned win over ULL in 2000.
If you need a 3-pointer to pull one out of the fire, Lofton comes to mind first. Not so fast, though.
In NCAA play, Lofton was a modest 32.5 percent from the arc. The guy you want is JaJuan Smith. He hit 47.8 percent of his 3-balls (22-of-46).
One day in Providence, Melvin Goins saved the Vols by going 4-of-5 from 3-point range against a surprised San Diego State to launch the 2010 Elite Eight run.
No Vol was ever more of an enabler than Bert Bertelkamp was against Maryland in 1980. His 16 assists helped Johnson and Gary Carter score 21 apiece and still stands as the UT record for all games.
Wayne Chism played in more tournament games (11), scored more points (136) and grabbed more rebounds (57) than any other Vol. His finest hour was 22 points and 11 boards in UT’s only Sweet 16 win, over Ohio State in 2010.
The Vols sat this one out. The question is who’s got next?