Cuonzo Martin foresees five SEC teams making the NCAA tournament

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin watches as his team shoots free throws against Arkansas during the second half at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Tennessee won 81-74. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin watches as his team shoots free throws against Arkansas during the second half at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Tennessee won 81-74. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

During his weekly media luncheon on Monday, Martin said those expectations have lowered some.

But not much.

“I thought it would be six,” Martin said. “But it’s five right now.”

And yes. The Vols are destined for the dance, according to their coach.

“Yeah, yeah,” Martin said. “But you’ve got to be there. When you’re talking about the best teams in the country, Tennessee is one of them. But you have to finish the job.”

UT (14-7, 5-3 SEC) hopes to notch its third win in a row when it plays Vanderbilt (12-8, 4-4) on Wednesday (Not Televised, 8:02 p.m.) at Memorial Gym in Nashville.

The Commodores have rattled off three wins in a row despite playing with just seven scholarship players.

“They don’t have a lot of guys,” Martin said. “But they’re a talented team, a well-coached team. We will have our work cut out for us.”

*UT is back in consideration for the Associated Press Top 25. The Vols received two points in the most recent poll.

*Martin’s record at UT in the month of February is now 14-3. Asked for the secret, he answered: “A lot of praying.”

*Martin had high praise for junior forward Jarnell Stokes after Stokes scored 22 points and pulled down 16 rebounds against Alabama.

“Jarnell is playing well, as well as any big guy in the country as far as I’m concerned,” Martin said.

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Comments » 19

underthehill writes:

The most the SEC is likely to have is 3..because of their non conference records and the fact they are not good enough to do any better..but every coach and school should be promoting the cause..although I remember how little good it done last year..the Vols are now a bit over 50% to make it..they better finish strong or they'll be NIT..and Martin has a short memory if he don't see this light..

murrayvol writes:

4?? Maybe. 5?? Only if an also ran gets hot and wins the SEC tournament and with FU and UK in the way, that's not likely.

Florida has tremendous talent and they're experienced. UK has tremendous talent and they're not. These 2 are the only SEC locks. Everybody else is trying to avoid the feeding frenzy. My recommendation is to finish 3rd and win a game or 2 in the tournament.

bUTch__please writes:

I'd prefer to enjoy watching the team pick-up high quality RPI wins in November and December. Something along the lines of letting the play talk and the bs walk.

But hey, it's February, time to dial up the bs here in the valley cause the first option is toast.

murrayvol writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

I'd prefer to enjoy watching the team pick-up high quality RPI wins in November and December. Something along the lines of letting the play talk and the bs walk.

But hey, it's February, time to dial up the bs here in the valley cause the first option is toast.

+1

We should never lose sight of the fact that we can lose 30 games and still win the tournament for an NCAA spot.

RoadTrip writes:

If Zo's February record holds true they should get in. Make it happen guys. Will believe they make the tourney when it happens.

bUTch__please writes:

in response to murrayvol:

+1

We should never lose sight of the fact that we can lose 30 games and still win the tournament for an NCAA spot.

I know Murray. No need getting all excited about that whole win/loss traditional success measuring matrix. That's all old school, huh?

Sad part is Coach Zo is opening up that same dialogue as McRae with this "5 teams in" chant. I would think a team less than halfway through its conference schedule should be hearing "time to double down our effort and build our 2A resume on the court" instead of this..."oh, we'll be recognized..this is the SEC" junk.

The pack runs at the speed of the leader.

namici#1422384 writes:

Hey Coach Zo...ask everyone around the country if they think 5 SEC teams should be in the NCAA Tournament. See how hard they laugh!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

I know Murray. No need getting all excited about that whole win/loss traditional success measuring matrix. That's all old school, huh?

Sad part is Coach Zo is opening up that same dialogue as McRae with this "5 teams in" chant. I would think a team less than halfway through its conference schedule should be hearing "time to double down our effort and build our 2A resume on the court" instead of this..."oh, we'll be recognized..this is the SEC" junk.

The pack runs at the speed of the leader.

Right. I guess Martin is trying to stoke up the players and/or the fans because nothing he says is going to have any impact on the committee, but it could again backfire if they do pretty well down the stretch but falter at the end. I think it is possible that after being so definite about this the last two years and not making it, the team was in no proper frame of mind to get the most they could out of an NIT opportunity. For a coach like Martin and a program like UT, the idea is to do the best you can even when you are disappointed. "All or nothing" guarantees disappointment for all but one team every year. One should never presuppose the outcome of a process that is not completely in one's own hands. In his position, my constant message to the team and the public would be that nothing is guaranteed to anybody and we blew some chances to make this process a whole lot easier, so we've got to fight like heck to get what we would like to think we deserve. I agree that one needs a clear vision of one's goal in order to find true success, and "a man's reach should exceed his grasp", but one's public thoughts on the whole subject should perhaps be a little more restrained.

bUTch__please writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Right. I guess Martin is trying to stoke up the players and/or the fans because nothing he says is going to have any impact on the committee, but it could again backfire if they do pretty well down the stretch but falter at the end. I think it is possible that after being so definite about this the last two years and not making it, the team was in no proper frame of mind to get the most they could out of an NIT opportunity. For a coach like Martin and a program like UT, the idea is to do the best you can even when you are disappointed. "All or nothing" guarantees disappointment for all but one team every year. One should never presuppose the outcome of a process that is not completely in one's own hands. In his position, my constant message to the team and the public would be that nothing is guaranteed to anybody and we blew some chances to make this process a whole lot easier, so we've got to fight like heck to get what we would like to think we deserve. I agree that one needs a clear vision of one's goal in order to find true success, and "a man's reach should exceed his grasp", but one's public thoughts on the whole subject should perhaps be a little more restrained.

As much as we're saying the same thing, it's Coach Zo's public thoughts that are reflective of the programs mindset. Halfway through a conference season, tied for 4th, is not the time to outline an escape hatch. Publicly. The same escape hatch that has been preached by this same coach, from the same podium for three years running. Who likes the result the team got the last two years? Anyone?

What strong leader at this junction wouldn't call out an accurate reflection of the 2A landscape and paint a true picture of the challenge that lay ahead for a team with a mercurial 39 RPI, a low RPI conference schedule remaining and being projected as a bubble team, 11th seed at best? Instead...we get an escape hatch three years running.

And what's wrong with calling out the team??? Stokes is just now playing big. Why not call on him to keep that effort up? Call out how Thompson is moving the team and ball better. Seriously, there is a huge difference between saying our season will only be defined a success with a Final Four net in the trophy case as opposed to setting the bar on maximum effort to build the resume on the floor. It's the lack of the latter that's a concern.

twilson1028#1422474 writes:

Seeing as Coach Martin predicted his first two Tennessee teams would get in and didn't, I think you have to question his assessment.

TNACBOY36 writes:

If he is counting Tennessee as the 5th team,then the SEC is only getting 4 teams in.I don't see Tennessee getting in when we can't beat anyone that is decent. We beat the other crappy teams we're suppose to beat but get drilled by Florida! This was suppose to be the year ZO turned things around with the players he had coming back. He is giving us nothing but the same Mediocrity! I think the commitment we lost today knows ZO's time is limited here!

tgggovols#1425081 writes:

I have to agree with the rest, this mindset hasn't worked the last two seasons, what makes Coach Martin think it's gonna work now! This team needs to keep it's nose to the grindstone and take it one game at a time. They should be setting goals of a top 3 regular season finish and an appearance in the SEC tourney final; when they get that accomplished then they can start talking about how many SEC teams ought to get in the NCAA's. Come on Coach, hold the guys feet to the fire, you're not doing them any favors by trying to lessen the pressure, it's time for this team to man up!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

As much as we're saying the same thing, it's Coach Zo's public thoughts that are reflective of the programs mindset. Halfway through a conference season, tied for 4th, is not the time to outline an escape hatch. Publicly. The same escape hatch that has been preached by this same coach, from the same podium for three years running. Who likes the result the team got the last two years? Anyone?

What strong leader at this junction wouldn't call out an accurate reflection of the 2A landscape and paint a true picture of the challenge that lay ahead for a team with a mercurial 39 RPI, a low RPI conference schedule remaining and being projected as a bubble team, 11th seed at best? Instead...we get an escape hatch three years running.

And what's wrong with calling out the team??? Stokes is just now playing big. Why not call on him to keep that effort up? Call out how Thompson is moving the team and ball better. Seriously, there is a huge difference between saying our season will only be defined a success with a Final Four net in the trophy case as opposed to setting the bar on maximum effort to build the resume on the floor. It's the lack of the latter that's a concern.

Hear, hear! Well said; agree with all.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to TNACBOY36:

If he is counting Tennessee as the 5th team,then the SEC is only getting 4 teams in.I don't see Tennessee getting in when we can't beat anyone that is decent. We beat the other crappy teams we're suppose to beat but get drilled by Florida! This was suppose to be the year ZO turned things around with the players he had coming back. He is giving us nothing but the same Mediocrity! I think the commitment we lost today knows ZO's time is limited here!

For one thing, the loss at UF was Martin's FIRST loss against Florida, and they get them back at TBA next Tuesday. Second, UT never wins at UK so that one can hardly be a failure unique to Martin. Third, Ole Miss was 2d in the SEC when the Vols beat them. Fourth, the committment he "lost" is a 3-star HS junior who might change his mind a dozen more times by the time he has to sign somewhere. Finally, the toughest part of the schedule is behind them and both of Martin's previous teams have been very good at this time of year. I completely agree that they should have gotten themselves together earlier all three years, but they are in a better position now than they were at this time in either of the previous seasons.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to tgggovols#1425081:

I have to agree with the rest, this mindset hasn't worked the last two seasons, what makes Coach Martin think it's gonna work now! This team needs to keep it's nose to the grindstone and take it one game at a time. They should be setting goals of a top 3 regular season finish and an appearance in the SEC tourney final; when they get that accomplished then they can start talking about how many SEC teams ought to get in the NCAA's. Come on Coach, hold the guys feet to the fire, you're not doing them any favors by trying to lessen the pressure, it's time for this team to man up!

I'm with you and most everybody else on this. I'm sure he doesn't mean it this way, but this almost undercuts the idea he says he is trying instill in the team that they have to fight for every game and every possession. Saying they are "in" at this point is like saying, "Don't bother diving after that loose ball; we're going to get some before it's over; don't hurt yourself."

no1djkb#278630 writes:

Guys they actually only had two bad losses before conference play. Michigan State just loss to Georgetown. I think you guys are failing to realize this team is actually in a better position then the previous two years.
The Bama win was a good win. They are hard to beat at home. I believe LSU lost to them at home this year and Wichita State only beat them by five at Bama. Winning by 17 points on the road is very impressive. The team is on the right track, they just need to stay focused. Thompson is the key. He is a really good point guard. He has settled this offense down since he got the starting job.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to no1djkb#278630:

Guys they actually only had two bad losses before conference play. Michigan State just loss to Georgetown. I think you guys are failing to realize this team is actually in a better position then the previous two years.
The Bama win was a good win. They are hard to beat at home. I believe LSU lost to them at home this year and Wichita State only beat them by five at Bama. Winning by 17 points on the road is very impressive. The team is on the right track, they just need to stay focused. Thompson is the key. He is a really good point guard. He has settled this offense down since he got the starting job.

You and I seem to agree on a lot of stuff, but I think I know why some real fans are still a little anxious. It's not that the team has so many "bad" losses, it's that they don't have all that many "good" wins, so many more losses, or ANY more "bad" ones, may leave them on the outside looking in--AGAIN! Even the most avid and optimistic fan would have to admit that UT hasn't lately gotten much benefit of the doubt from the NCAA, so that's why I am so intent on the necessity of them REMOVING any doubt.

no1djkb#278630 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

You and I seem to agree on a lot of stuff, but I think I know why some real fans are still a little anxious. It's not that the team has so many "bad" losses, it's that they don't have all that many "good" wins, so many more losses, or ANY more "bad" ones, may leave them on the outside looking in--AGAIN! Even the most avid and optimistic fan would have to admit that UT hasn't lately gotten much benefit of the doubt from the NCAA, so that's why I am so intent on the necessity of them REMOVING any doubt.

well the good new is, Tennessee finishes strong in February. Lets hope this trend keeps on going.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to no1djkb#278630:

well the good new is, Tennessee finishes strong in February. Lets hope this trend keeps on going.

Amen, brother! GBO!!!

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