Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

April 3, 2014

ROCKY TOP BEAT: Lady Vols, Vols' seasons concluded abruptly

CROSSVILLE — The basketball season ended rather abruptly last weekend for both the Lady Vols and the Vols; however, the way these two teams ended their seasons will leave entirely different lasting memories.

The Vols made the most out of their NCAA experience and finished the season feeling good about how they competed. Meanwhile, the Lady Vols failed to take advantage of their number one seeding and struggled again with competition outside the SEC, an alarming trend in recent years.

The end of the basketball season did not mean the end of the drama that followed the Vols' coach throughout this season. This time, it was the speculation that Cuonzo Martin could leave for a job that was not exactly greener pastures, but offered a less volatile setting. Remember, all's well that ends well.

The decision of Cuonzo Martin to pull his name from consideration for the Marquette head coaching position had many within the Vol Nation breathing a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, that is not the case with all the supporters.

If things slide south with next year's addition, potentially with only one starter back, distractions could return.

The hope of most within the Big Orange family is that Jarnell Stokes returns for his senior season and this team continues to evolve as a force within the SEC and beyond. However, even without Stokes, this team  is not without talent, but will certainly have a much different look. With or without Jarnell, they will have a tough time topping this season's end of the year thrills that made Vol fans everywhere very proud.

The Lady Vols' coaching staff will once again be searching for some answers in the off season as to why this team failed to play to their potential. It cost them the regular season SEC title this season and sent them home with a bad loss in the Sweet 16 to Maryland. There are just too many talented players on this team to be so inconsistent, especially  against the better competition.

While Dave Hart and Cuonzo Martin sort out a contract extension, the fans can focus again on football. Only a few more practices remain before next Saturday's Orange/White game. Maybe, we will have a better idea as to who will emerge from this scrimmage as the odds on favorite to lead this offense in the fall. With so many positions up for grabs, it could be an interesting afternoon.

A familiar face will be in attendance for the Orange/White game this year. David Cutcliffe will be this year's recipient of the annual Neyland Award. Although the award is presented earlier in the day, the past recipients have been honored at halftime at the game. A lot of love from the Big Orange fans is in store for the ex-offensive coordinator for the Vols.

The Orange/White game is a chance for everyone to enjoy a spring day at Neyland Stadium and get a glimpse of most of Team 118. This is the one game each year that Tennessee is guaranteed to come out on top. With another tough schedule for 2014 and a team short on experience, one relaxing afternoon in Neyland Stadium is something all Vol fans need to savor. Go Vols and Lady Vols!

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

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