Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

March 15, 2012

ROCKY TOP BEAT: Tennessee is finally immersed in March Madness

CROSSVILLE — This week we are finally fully immersed in March Madness. From the Lady Vols to the Vols, Tennessee fans will be busy following their two favorite teams compete for a championship. The Vols are just not competing for the championship they had hoped for.

Vols back to friendlier confines

The Vols failed to take advantage of their first round bye last weekend in the SEC Tournament and as a result were relegated to the NIT Tournament. What first appeared to be a negative has so far been a plus. The Vols received one of four No. 1 seeds in the NIT and will play all their games at home leading up to the semi-finals in New York. 

The fans that came out Tuesday not only received free parking but were able to take advantage of general seating for ten dollars. Many of these Big Orange fans were able to occupy seats usually reserved for long time season ticket holders; the result, a loud and rowdy Rocky Top crowd that created a great atmosphere for the Vols. 

Savannah State was able to weather the Vols' early onslaught and fought back to within two points in the middle of the second half. However, the home court advantage was the difference as the fans refused to let their Vols falter on this night. On a neutral court, with Jeronne Maymon sitting out with a bruised knee, this could have had a very different outcome. 

Vols host in-state foe

Tennessee will play Middle Tennessee State University in their next game. By the time you are reading this, the date and time should be set. MTSU would love to derail the Volunteer Express headed for New York. The Vols will need to bring their “A” game or chance seeing their season end on a sour note. 

The Vols can get their 20th win of the season against MTSU and need only to win two more games to make it to Madison Square Garden. Both of these goals would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago. 

Lady Vols rewarded

The NCAA Selection Committee rewarded the Lady Vols for their SEC Tournament Championship with a No. 2 seed, if you call having No. 1 Baylor in your region a reward. Still, Tennessee played Baylor better than either Stanford or Notre Dame in the regular season. Getting that match-up with Baylor could be a daunting task for a team that has been inconsistent this season. 

Lady Vols pack their bags

Pat Summitt’s alma mater, UT Martin, is the first team the Lady Vols will face in Chicago this Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CDT. The winner of BYU and DePaul will be awaiting the Lady Vols on Monday should they advance. They have already beaten DePaul on a neutral court earlier in the season but that was then and this is March Madness where anything can happen. Still, you have to like the Lady Vols' chances to make it to Des Moines, Iowa where the regional champion will have their ticket punched for the Final Four. 

Survive and advance

This weekend the Vols and Lady Vols need to guard against upsets as they strive to keep those around Rocky Top smiling. Want to hear those sneakers screeching and watch the Vols up close, then get on down to Thompson Boling Arena. Take advantage of those cheap general admission tickets and open seating. If the atmosphere is anything close to what occurred last Tuesday, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Go Vols and Lady Vols!

(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)


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