By Frank Gale
What a great weekend for the Vols and Lady Vols. First, I want to apologize to the readers for the inadvertent reference in Friday's column where the Lady Vols instead of the Vols were identified with two close losses this season against Texas A&M. The good news is the Lady Vols were able to take care of business against the Aggies and get a bit of redemption for UT.
The Lady Vols had to overcome double digit deficits in all three of their games before finally securing their 17th SEC Tournament Championship. Congrats to Isabelle Harrison for being named SEC Tournament MVP and to senior Meighan Simmons who has scored over 2,000 points during her career at Tennessee. This team has come together under Coach Holly Warlick and could enter the NCAA Tournament with a number one seed when the brackets are announced next Monday.
The Vols continued their year end turnaround by dismantling Missouri on Saturday and in the process possibly ending the Tigers NCAA Tournament hopes. The streaking Vols head to the SEC Tournament in Atlanta where they will try to make the most out of their number four seeding.
Tennessee seeded on the same side of the bracket with regular season champ Florida certainly presents a difficult pathway to the finals. Before the Vols can even think about upsetting the Gators, they will have to avoid another early exit.
Some of the recent success for the Vols is directly related to the coaching staff working with point guard Antonio Barton before he was inserted into the starting line up. Since that move, Barton's confidence has soared and so has the Vols' offense. Along with an improved offense, the Vols have committed to playing a stifling defense that should serve Tennessee well in the post season.
Keeping that momentum going now is critical for the Vols. They hold their post season fate in their own hands now. Win at least one game in Atlanta and it should be on to the NCAA Tournament for the the first time under Cuonzo Martin. Stumble in the quarter finals and they could be putting their fate in the hands of the selection committee.
Vols fans will have to wait until Friday when the Vols play a late afternoon contest against either Arkansas or the survivor of Wednesday's game between Auburn and South Carolina. It would take some major upsets for the Vols to win it all; however, they do call it March Madness for a reason - right? Go Vols and Lady Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)