By Frank Gale
The optimism surrounding UT athletics at the start of 2014 has been tempered a bit with both basketball teams failing to live up to expectations so far this month. With both teams having rosters with high caliber athletes, the results on the court have been inconsistent and disappointing for a fan base that was primed for better.
The Lady Vols and the Vols both were supposed to reside in the top echelon of the SEC, and that makes the start to the conference campaign hard for fans to accept. Although it is only the first part of a season with plenty of games left, the clock has already started to tick on both squads.
The Lady Vols find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being 3-2 in conference play going into last night’s game (with Florida). This is certainly uncharted waters for this program after having so much success in the SEC. Perhaps Holly Warlick might need to develop a “Pat stare” or the “foot stomp." Hold the “locker room lockout” in reserve, just in case!
The Vols have fallen into a pattern of win one and lose one lately. The Vols win Wednesday night against Arkansas could help their RPI, but what was more important is they avoided dropping another conference game at home. Now they need to steal a game on the road.
Tomorrow, just like last weekend against Kentucky, the Vols will have one of the rare opportunities to help their post season resume. They played a great first half last weekend thanks to a terrific game plan devised by the coaching staff. The Vols' domination inside was led by Jarnell Stokes but in the end, it was Kentucky being able to make the outside shots that scuttled a great effort on the road.
The Vols will be traveling to Gainesville where they have experienced success against the Gators in previous years; however, No. 7 ranked Florida is undefeated at home this season. It will take another great game plan and consistent play from the guards to return to Rocky Top with a victory.
There was a bit of good news this week. The Lady Vol softball team was named the pre-season No. 1 team in the country. Right now, you take the good news where you can find it.
The National Football Signing Day is just a few weeks away and the most important thing is not having any of these UT commitments poached by rival programs until they are signed. There are already enough negative distractions for the Big Orange Nation to deal with.
The Lady Vols are headed to College Station Sunday for a game against a Texas A&M team that is undefeated on their home court this season. The Aggies took an unblemished SEC record into the game at Missouri last night, while the Lady Vols hosted Florida.
You can catch the Vols on ESPN at 3 p.m. Saturday and the Lady Vols game on ESPN 2 at 3 p.m. on Sunday, great opportunity for both programs on a national stage. Go Vols and Lady Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)