By Frank Gale
The Vols are once again in familiar territory, only this time they have no margin for error. The win Wednesday at Mississippi State was the first over two struggling SEC teams left on the schedule. The victory will do nothing to improve their RPI or chances for an NCAA Tournament bid; however, a loss would most likely have sent them the NIT route again.
The question I have heard most often around Crossville is “what is wrong with our Volunteer basketball team?" Take your pick of many things, any one of which could be the cause. The lack of a quality and a consistent point guard, an athletic shot blocking center to compliment the strong power forwards and not being able to win close games have all contributed to a season that has not met expectations.
The good news is that this team has not quit on their embattled coach. They have a few really important games remaining, starting tomorrow when Vandy makes a house call to Rocky Top. Commodore teams lately have had the upper hand against UT teams.
The Vols need to win all three of the remaining regular season games. Two are at home against the better of the foes, with one more road contest remaining against a struggling Auburn team next Wednesday. Bob Mitchell certainly does not need a loss in that one with Jim Petty ready to gloat if an unlikely upset were to occur.
Tomorrow, it will be all about the home crowd setting the tone for the Vols. Vandy has a talented, but depleted, squad that is coming off a close loss to Florida at home this past week. Thankfully, the Commodores have not had a great deal of success on the road this season, compiling a 3-6 record away from Nashville.
The Vols are a deeper and more talented team than any of their next two opponents; however, waiting in the wings for the season finale is Missouri which matches up with the Vols extremely well. Let’s just hope that the last home game next Saturday still has relevance for Tennessee in regards to the Big Dance.
Tomorrow’s rivalry game is carried on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. CST. It is a nice platform where the Vols can showcase the talent to a vast audience. Maybe making Jim Butler a little upset while doing it would be a bonus for me!
The Lady Vols will be honoring their leading scorer Meighan Simmons on Sunday when they close out the season against SEC-leading South Carolina. For those that can’t make it to Knoxville for Senior Day, ESPNU will carry the game at 1:30 p.m. CST. Then it is on to Duluth, GA for the SEC Women’s Tournament next week where they will try to win their 17th SEC Tournament title.
For now, the best advice for the Volunteer Nation is to support this team and let the entire season play out. It is way too early to be throwing in the towel on this team that can still salvage the season.
The phrase “all’s well that ends well” could have a special meaning for Big Orange fans as the post season approaches. Go Vols and Lady Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)