By Frank Gale
The Lady Vols ran their record in NCAA Tournament games played at Knoxville to 52-0 this past week after winning their two opening round games. Oklahoma City is the next stop, where the Lady Vols will play Oklahoma University on Sunday at 3:35 p.m. CDT on ESPN 2.
The Lady Vols have experienced mixed results on their trips to Oklahoma. In 2008, they left the regional finals in Oklahoma City and headed for the Final Four, where they captured their eighth national title. But in 2009, the Lady Vols ventured back to Sooner Territory and suffered a defeat to then No. 2 nationally ranked Oklahoma.
The Lady Vols are 4-1 all time against the OU ladies. Advance and they will play the winner of the Baylor/Louisville game next Tuesday.
It will take a minor miracle for the Lady Vols to advance past Oklahoma City; however, anything is possible during March Madness. No matter how this all turns out, this team has made the Big Orange Nation proud.
Coach Cuonzo Martin received a verbal commitment from a potential point guard this past week. Darius Thompson, a 6’5" combo guard from Murfreesboro, could find himself in the rotation by the time league play rolls around next season.
One of the things that excites me about Thompson coming to the Vols, he de-committed from Vanderbilt. I am sure that Jim Butler will say that the Commodores did not really want him, but the Big Orange Nation knows better.
The bigger story going into next season is whether Coach Martin can get the Vols to the Big Dance. Another miss on the NCAA Tournament next season could be detrimental to his tenure in Knoxville. Probably not fair, but it is the nature of collegiate sports these days.
On April 20, the Dish Orange and White Game pre-game ceremonies will include the introduction of the recipients of both the Lindsay Nelson Broadcasting Award and the General Robert R. Neyland Trophy.
ESPN’s Lee Corso will be named this year’s winner of the Lindsay Nelson Broadcast Award. Only those who exemplified Nelson’s passion for broadcasting during their careers are selected for this honor.
UT fans have been blessed over the years to have talent like Lindsay Nelson, George Mooney, John Ward and now Bob Kesling to bring Big Orange sports alive over the airwaves.
The Knoxville Touchdown Club will award this year’s Neyland Trophy to Cookeville’s own Mack Brown, the head coach at the University of Texas. The award honors those who have contributed greatly to intercollegiate athletics. Past recipients include many of the coaching legends that have plied their trade along various sidelines across this great country for over a half century.
By mid-April, warmer weather should greet the tens of thousands that annually make the trek to Neyland Stadium for the spring game. In the meantime, stay warm and get behind the Lady Vols as they try to survive and advance. Go Vols and Lady Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)