Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

March 27, 2014

Rocky Top Beat: Basketball has taken Big Orange Country by storm

CROSSVILLE — Basketball has taken Big Orange Country by storm. The Lady Vols are a fixture in the Sweet 16, but the Vols returning after a few years' hiatus was a pleasant surprise. There are plenty of accolades to be spread around Rocky Top, but basically it starts with the guards and ends with Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon dominating the paint.

The leadership from the Vols' head coach is not lost in all this. After enduring some trying times this season, Coach Cuonzo Martin has emerged as the steadfast force behind what these student/athletes have been able to accomplish. How he held everything together this season is a story in itself and a big reason this team has made it to the Sweet 16, two wins away from making program history.

Tonight, the Vols (24-12) have a chance to advance into the Elite Eight when they play Big Ten regular season champs Michigan (27-8) inside a sold out Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville play the second game in the toughest of all the regions . The survivors will play Sunday in the Midwest Regional Finals and a spot in the Final Four.

Michigan is coached by John Beilein, a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year award. On the floor, they are led by Big Ten Player of the Year and leading scorer, sophomore Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. After coming up short in last year's title game with Louisville, Michigan just might be looking ahead to a possible rematch against the team that denied them a national title.

The Vols' defense will be put to the test controlling an offense that relies heavily on the three-point shot. Meanwhile, the Michigan defense will be trying to deny the Vols touches in the paint and limiting offensive rebounds. Its all about the defense in the post-season to survive and advance.

While the Vols are still playing their best basketball in the post season, the Lady Vols have sputtered a bit in the first two games. They are also headed to the round of 16, but not with the gusto you would expect from a number one seed. Still, this team has a lot of talent and you have to think they will play better this weekend in Louisville.

The Lady Vols (29-5) opponent Sunday is Maryland (26-6), who are led by ACC Player of the Year senior Alyssa Thomas. The Lady Terps are the four seed in this region but, at this point, all opponents are dangerous. Getting to the Final Four in Nashville is clearly the Lady Vols' team goal, but to do that, they will have to revert back to resembling the team that cut down the nets in the SEC Tournament. The tip is at 11 a.m. CDT on ESPN.

The Vols have been able to solve zone defenses and have controlled the tempo of games during their late season winning run. Experience, maturity and not wanting this special season to end are all plusses for the Vols, who suddenly are starting to look like a team of destiny. Could "Cinderella" be wearing orange?

Win or lose tonight, it has been rewarding to see this team come together and make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Sure, there is plenty of nervous apprehension throughout Big Orange Country as the Vols prepare to play the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. Just remember, supporters of the maize and blue are equally nervous with an opponent that is playing their best ball of the season.

I have said this past month that all's well that ends well. In a post-season tournament that will end with heartbreak for all but one team, the Vols are now playing with "house money." That and proving critics wrong just might be enough of an edge to get the Big Orange where few collegiate teams have the privilege to go. Sometimes you just have to believe.

Go Vols and Lady Vols!!

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

Text Only
Sports Columns
  • Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    Cheating has been part of college athletics probably for as long as people have bothered to keep score.

    July 24, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Vols begin preparations for season opener in eight days

    The start of fall practice is only a mere eight days away. Coach Butch Jones has to be ready to get Team #118 on the field and to start preparations for Utah State.

    July 24, 2014

  • Expectations too high for a rehabbing Woods

    Even when Tiger Woods finished just a few strokes from last place at the British Open, he was one of the  featured topics in stories coming out of Royal Liverpool Golf Club.

    July 23, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Vols focused on Utah

    The SEC media days have come and gone with no real news being generated. A successful media days appearance is usually defined as leaving Hoover, AL without giving a future opponent bulletin board material. Using that criteria, Tennessee left without any major gaffs.

    July 17, 2014

  • Oh Good Greif: Good things must come to an end

    The Dr. Pepper Classic, a long-time tradition at McKenzie Arena, affectively-known as the Round House, will seize, as a couple of teams dropped out, leaving the university in a "lurch," according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press Tuesday morning. Teams wanted a cash guarantee to play, which couldn't be provided (at this time).

    July 10, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Majors Invitational tees off Sunday at Lake Tansi

    It is the second weekend in July and that means Johnny Majors is at Lake Tansi this weekend to host his annual golf tournament. It is always a treat for the local UT fans to interact with those that have been a part of the Vol football program. They come to the plateau each year to renew old acquaintances and share the stories of gridiron prowess from past years. By the way, the stories sure seem to get better with time.

    July 10, 2014

  • Oh Good Greif: 'Dores make history with CWS win

    History was made at the College World Series in Omaha, NE, this week, as the Vanderbilt Commodores baseball team won the school's  first national championship in any sport since the Vandy women's bowling team won the 2007 national crown.

    June 26, 2014

  • Rocky Top Beat: Tyndall hire closes the book on Martin era

    The University of Tennessee was able to close the books on the Cuonzo Martin era of Vol basketball earlier this week when they hired Donnie Tyndall to lead their program. Athletic Director Dave Hart, who conducted the search and the hiring on his own, appears to have found the right coach for this team at the right time.

    April 24, 2014

  • ROCKY TOP BEAT: You never know what will happen next with TN sports

    When you cover UT sports, you never know what is going to happen next. The past two weeks were no exception as they were filled with "the good, the bad and the ugly."

    April 17, 2014

  • Oh Good Greif: Spring in full swing with Masters under way

    With "March Madness" over and the Masters golf tournament under way in Augusta, GA, you know spring has sprung.

    April 10, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014