Mike Strange: Vols remind us they can be a team with 'wow' factor

Mike Strange
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) goes up for a slam dunk during the second half against Vanderbilt at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Tennessee won 76-38. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) goes up for a slam dunk during the second half against Vanderbilt at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Tennessee won 76-38. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

The halftime horn sounded. ESPN analyst Barry Booker, a 1980s Vanderbilt star, passed press row on his way off the court.

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Comments » 9

asleep#212036 writes:

There appears to be no middle ground with this team. When they're good, they're really, really good, like bracket buster, nobody-wants-to-play-them good. But when they're not, they are so mediocre that no game is safe. Sadly, there is no game they cannot win and no game they cannot lose. And there lies the quandary for the NCAA selection committee. If they win out the regular season they're gonna get in the tourney but the opportunities they have wasted to be a high seed are mind-boggling. They beat Virginia, Vandy, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, and Bama to death (latter two on the road) but lose to TAMU and NC State at home and, gulp, UTEP. Toss in another TAMU road loss and a choke at Vandy and you see what they could have been. Just winning the games they were favored would have them have them at 23-6, an RPI likely in the low 30's, and an upper half seed. For whatever reason, Cuonzo cannot keep them focused game to game or sometimes even half to half. We'll see but I will say this after watching them today: if they make the tourney, there isn't a team in the whole shebang who would want any part of them no matter their seed. Go VOLS!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to asleep#212036:

There appears to be no middle ground with this team. When they're good, they're really, really good, like bracket buster, nobody-wants-to-play-them good. But when they're not, they are so mediocre that no game is safe. Sadly, there is no game they cannot win and no game they cannot lose. And there lies the quandary for the NCAA selection committee. If they win out the regular season they're gonna get in the tourney but the opportunities they have wasted to be a high seed are mind-boggling. They beat Virginia, Vandy, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, and Bama to death (latter two on the road) but lose to TAMU and NC State at home and, gulp, UTEP. Toss in another TAMU road loss and a choke at Vandy and you see what they could have been. Just winning the games they were favored would have them have them at 23-6, an RPI likely in the low 30's, and an upper half seed. For whatever reason, Cuonzo cannot keep them focused game to game or sometimes even half to half. We'll see but I will say this after watching them today: if they make the tourney, there isn't a team in the whole shebang who would want any part of them no matter their seed. Go VOLS!!!

Well said; agree completely. Just imagine if they could take about 20 points of that final margin against Vandy and distribute them over the Vol losses. That would just about account for the difference in records you cited, if not more. That is how fine the margin is between being a top-20 team and an also-ran. If Barton can stay on an even keel and be just half as effective as he was yesterday, the Vols could be a handful for anybody going forward.

bUTch__please writes:

I think we got an insight into this team - when Dale can bring a motivational speaker from the NFL into the locker room with him and light the team up. They're young kids who want to play hard and perform. Post game presser Coach Zo just wanted to focus on the defense instead of the team having fun in all phases of the game and hitting a high percentage of shots on offense.

It looks from here that Coach Zo is the cork in the rectum of progress. Loosen up and let the team play. Be happy and pat 'em on the back for scoring.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

I think we got an insight into this team - when Dale can bring a motivational speaker from the NFL into the locker room with him and light the team up. They're young kids who want to play hard and perform. Post game presser Coach Zo just wanted to focus on the defense instead of the team having fun in all phases of the game and hitting a high percentage of shots on offense.

It looks from here that Coach Zo is the cork in the rectum of progress. Loosen up and let the team play. Be happy and pat 'em on the back for scoring.

Well, I get your point, but Martin, like many other coaches, believes that good defense produces good offense. He also wants playing good defense to be a habit, because it should always be there whether the shots are falling or not. When a team is active on defense, they not only produce points from defensive rebounds, blocked shots, and steals, they also tend to move better on offense. Martin wants them to enjoy playing good defense as much as they do playing good offense. That may be contrary to human nature in a way, but we often have to do things we don't like to do in order to do what we want to do later, like working hard at a job we may not enjoy in order to pay for nice vacations and a comfortable retirement. And it very often happens that if we put more of ourselves into even the more-disagreeable aspects of our jobs, we learn to take more justifiable pride in ourselves.

murrayvol writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

I think we got an insight into this team - when Dale can bring a motivational speaker from the NFL into the locker room with him and light the team up. They're young kids who want to play hard and perform. Post game presser Coach Zo just wanted to focus on the defense instead of the team having fun in all phases of the game and hitting a high percentage of shots on offense.

It looks from here that Coach Zo is the cork in the rectum of progress. Loosen up and let the team play. Be happy and pat 'em on the back for scoring.

"the cork in the rectum of progress." bwahahaha!

Well put old sport.

gglardon50#417841 writes:

Team played well and was well coached. Now win the last 2 ,play well in the SEC tourney and get to the dance. Then leave the coach alone and stop all the negative stuff.
And if the other guy {Pearl } ends up somewhere fine-let that school deal with all the lieing and cheating plus didn't Pearl lose by 20 or more in his last NCAA 1st round guy. The guys bad news in so many ways.

fannotsheep writes:

in response to gglardon50#417841:

Team played well and was well coached. Now win the last 2 ,play well in the SEC tourney and get to the dance. Then leave the coach alone and stop all the negative stuff.
And if the other guy {Pearl } ends up somewhere fine-let that school deal with all the lieing and cheating plus didn't Pearl lose by 20 or more in his last NCAA 1st round guy. The guys bad news in so many ways.

Let's see … UT's then-athletic director Mike Hamilton went on a local sports talk radio show the evening before the Vols played their first round NCAA game and made it clear that UT was not going to keep Pearl. Until then no one knew that. If you want to ensure that your team loses a game just rip their hearts out the day before they play.

Now this may be lost on you, but the vast majority of Tennessee players and fans loved Coach Pearl. Players play for their coaches, not some suit in the administration.

Some people -- like yourself apparently -- are perfect in every way, have never told a lie and that's great. Pearl did not really cheat; as I understand it he did not even invite Aaron Craft to his home but did not want to offend the young man or his family by telling them they had to leave. Now I bet you the folks in Lexington were laughing their donkeys off after the millions of dollars that have been passed to players and recruits in secret handshakes over the past several decades. The rule Pearl broke was so stupid the NCAA got rid of it the very next year. If the kid had been a senior in high school no violation, but as a junior, well we can't very well have high school juniors eating barbecue now can we? So much for cheating. Yes Pearl lied, and most UT fans can accept that fact and his apology. I don't know of one person (again, apparently other than you) who thought it should have cost him his job and three years of his career.

I personally would hate it if Alabama or any other SEC school hired Pearl because they would be getting the best coach in the SEC. If you don't remember the immediate turnaround he led in his first year at UT, the Vols had to go on the road to play Texas, ranked high and expected to be an elite team that year. The local media was saying if he could keep it within 10 points it would be a moral victory. He took his team to Austin and won by 17 points. He transformed a team that was pitiful under Buzz Peterson into a 2 seed. The year before Pearl came to Knoxville everyone wondered why Dane Bradshaw was allowed to play any minutes. Under Buzz he was the worst looking player I'd ever seen. Under Pearl he was phenomenal, dishing assists for game winning dunks and three pointers, driving the length of the court to beat Florida, etc.

fannotsheep writes:

By the way, if the current UT players played with heart and determination every game they would have lived up to their potential this year. I read in another newspaper quotes from players to the effect that the remaining games are important and they can't afford any more losses. Do you think that's how Wichita State coaches their players? Apparently they think all their games are important, that's why they have won them all. They didn't have to get offended because somebody said they got outplayed before they finally decided to take it personal and play like they cared.

Now I think Bobby Knight took things too seriously but can you imagine his players ever saying something like that? Do you think any loss was ever acceptable to him?

Pearl's teams didn't win them all. But they won most of the ones they were supposed to, and a heck of a lot that they weren't supposed to as well. If justice was served Pearl would have been fined, suspended and lost some scholarships for lying to the NCAA. But they wanted blood and they got it. What blows my mind is that anyone thinks that what he did would even rank in the top one thousand compared to things that go on every day at big basketball factories like Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and so on. I know Alabama alums who admit seeing $100 handshakes all the time. Fulmer turned in the Tide booster for trying to buy a high school recruit with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The coaches at every one of these schools know what is going on in their money sport every single day. Do you think they would admit it if the NCAA asked them about it?

So tell me why Pearl should have been fired.

VictorKrugerIII writes:

in response to fannotsheep:

By the way, if the current UT players played with heart and determination every game they would have lived up to their potential this year. I read in another newspaper quotes from players to the effect that the remaining games are important and they can't afford any more losses. Do you think that's how Wichita State coaches their players? Apparently they think all their games are important, that's why they have won them all. They didn't have to get offended because somebody said they got outplayed before they finally decided to take it personal and play like they cared.

Now I think Bobby Knight took things too seriously but can you imagine his players ever saying something like that? Do you think any loss was ever acceptable to him?

Pearl's teams didn't win them all. But they won most of the ones they were supposed to, and a heck of a lot that they weren't supposed to as well. If justice was served Pearl would have been fined, suspended and lost some scholarships for lying to the NCAA. But they wanted blood and they got it. What blows my mind is that anyone thinks that what he did would even rank in the top one thousand compared to things that go on every day at big basketball factories like Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and so on. I know Alabama alums who admit seeing $100 handshakes all the time. Fulmer turned in the Tide booster for trying to buy a high school recruit with hundreds of thousands of dollars. The coaches at every one of these schools know what is going on in their money sport every single day. Do you think they would admit it if the NCAA asked them about it?

So tell me why Pearl should have been fired.

I appreciate your passion and your well-thought posts. In a sea of poorly written negative comments by knee-jerk semi-coherent "fans," folks like you and johnlg are a life raft. Keep it coming, and Go Vols!

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