The Tennessee men’s basketball team enters its second-to-last week of the SEC regular season as one of seven teams tied for fourth place. It’s not where UT (16-11, 7-7) expected to be in coach Cuonzo Martin’s third season. And during his weekly media luncheon on Monday, Martin addressed the elephant in the room — chatter about his job security — that has grown with each loss.
Block it out.
Cuonzo Martin questioned about job security
“Don’t waste time and energy on it,” Martin said. “The next game presents itself. Move forward.”
“I’ve been doing it for years,” he added. “For me, as a ballplayer and as a coach, I’ve been consumed with what I need to do for years. If you put the work in, everything else takes care of itself. Again, don’t have that kind of time and energy. If it’s negative, I don’t consume myself with it.”
UT plays Mississippi State (13-14, 3-11) on Wednesday (MyVLT, 8 p.m.) The Bulldogs’ nine-game losing streak is the longest in the SEC. While Mississippi State has zero chance, outside of winning the SEC tournament, of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, Martin still likes his team’s shot at the dance.
“It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in league play before,” Martin said of the seven-way tie for fourth. “For us the goal is to be on top when the smoke clears. That’s the bottom line. Mississippi State is the most important game on the schedule right now.”
Point Guard Problems:
Saturday’s overtime loss to Texas A&M yet again exposed UT’s deficiency at the point guard position. A&M point guard Alex Caruso drove into the lane at will, scored 14 points and distributed seven assists. UT’s Darius Thompson and Antonio Barton combined to miss eight of their shots and distribute two assists.
“You’ve got to get production at that position,” Martin said. “It’s not just scoring points. Running the team, distributing the basketball. Getting guys in position to score.”
Martin named Thompson the starter when Barton struggled. On Monday he didn’t rule out the possibility of giving walk-on Brandon Lopez some time at the position if Thompson and Barton can’t produce.
Ellis Honored: The jersey (No. 14) of former Vol forward Dale Ellis will be retired when UT plays Vanderbilt on March 1 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I’m happy for him,” Martin said. “He put the work in. He was a very successful college and NBA player. So, it’s good to see that. Hopefully our fans come out and support him.”