Mike Strange: Sometimes, the other guys are just pretty good

Mike Strange
Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes, center, reaches for a rebound with USC Upstate's Fred Miller (32) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes, center, reaches for a rebound with USC Upstate's Fred Miller (32) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

To the casual fan perusing Tennessee’s basketball schedule, a lot of the Vols’ opponents look alike.

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Comments » 4

johnlg00 writes:

This article shows what I have been saying for years, namely, that talent is far more widely distributed than recruiting-service ratings might suggest. Vol fans who are disgruntled with UT's loss at Xavier and close battle with USC-Upstate might be interested to know that Michigan State only led Ivy-League Columbia by TWO POINTS last night with about four minutes remaining on their home court, before finally winning by nine. Note to UT students: both Tom Izzo and the Columbia coach credited the MSU student section with helping to cause two shot-clock violations against Columbia in the late going by shouting out a shot-clock countdown that was three seconds slower than the actual clock.

Yes, THAT MSU, the one that will almost undoubtedly be ranked #1 in the country in this weeks' polls. Yes, THAT Columbia, the one that hasn't even challenged for the Ivy League title since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. There just really AREN'T that many pushovers around these days.

All Div-I teams use scholarship players. The vast majority of the lower-rated teams have a plurality of players that have played three or four years of college ball. Nearly all schools have access to a wealth of game tapes, instructional videos, advanced strength and conditioning techniques, and coaching clinics that were the exclusive perks of only the big-name programs in the past.

Oh sure, there are a few programs that loom over the others year after year, but the margin of those programs over everybody else has never been narrower. If a team doesn't bring it every night against everybody, almost anybody is likely to beat them. We Vol fans should keep that in mind as the season progresses.

murrayvol writes:

Good post john, and you make some excellent points....BUT, the Vols are (by any standard) a talented/veteran team..... playing at home.....a team that many believe should contend for an SEC Championship.

They shouldn't struggle this mightily vs USC Upstate. IMO this team has preparation and execution issues that (if not corrected) will plague them for the entire season.

rockypop writes:

I guess Vols' fans should take some heart in the fact that today (Sunday), Belmont knocked off North Carolina in the Dean Dome, Iowa State dropped Michigan and Indiana State stomped Notre Dame.

Additionally, Michigan State had to come back to beat Columbia by nine on Saturday, after pretty much dominating Kentucky earlier. The takeaway is that every team in the country better be ready to play every game. No game is a given anymore with all the talent out there, and especially given the fact that it doesn't take many good players for any team to be competitive. I doubt that not many BCS programs recruited the kids at Belmont that beat NC on its own floor.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to rockypop:

I guess Vols' fans should take some heart in the fact that today (Sunday), Belmont knocked off North Carolina in the Dean Dome, Iowa State dropped Michigan and Indiana State stomped Notre Dame.

Additionally, Michigan State had to come back to beat Columbia by nine on Saturday, after pretty much dominating Kentucky earlier. The takeaway is that every team in the country better be ready to play every game. No game is a given anymore with all the talent out there, and especially given the fact that it doesn't take many good players for any team to be competitive. I doubt that not many BCS programs recruited the kids at Belmont that beat NC on its own floor.

I'm glad you mentioned the UNC-Belmont game. Now, UNC didn't have the team they expected to have. They have two starters being held out pending resolution of eligibility issues with the NCAA. Their loss would be equivalent to the Vols being without McRae and Richardson. Still, you would have expected them to handle Belmont, at home in particular, since as you say not many if any of Belmont's players were recruited by the bigger schools.

The main cause of UNC's downfall was shooting under 50% from the FT line, but Belmont was also shooting the lights out from the arc. But I take your point and the one in the post above yours that the Vols have to be ready to play no matter who the opponent is and that they have issues that need to be fixed if they are to be as good as most of us expect them to be.

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