>It’s all about expectations.
Back in early January, I lamented that as far as men’s basketball season was concerned, it was over for Tennessee. Four players had been arrested and were suspended from the team as an investigation into the allegations began. Since it was four big name contributors, I figure we were done and we could say farewell to any aspirations of going to the NIT, much less the Big Dance.
Then, we beat Kansas at home and I felt a glimmer of hope.
As the season went along, the storyline became more and more about how Bruce “I Am A Legend At Tennessee Now” Pearl did one of his best coaching jobs EVER to not only keep the team together, but also winning. Pearl did the right thing in dismissing Tyler Smith from the team, risking his long-term future at Tennessee to do what was right for Smith and UT. (Ask yourself this: had that happened to John Wall at UK, would Calipari have dismissed him or made him sit the bench for any length of time? The answer is probably not).
As the tournament came around, once again the Vols were slighted by the committee but showed resiliency in a first round win, blew out Ohio and then got past a huge obstacle in Ohio State Friday night to get to the Elite Eight. For the first time ever.
Today, they had their chance to go to the Final Four and were a few seconds and a couple of missed free throws away from pulling off what on January 1 I and a lot of other Tennessee fans and experts thought was impossible. This year’s team went where no Tennessee team has gone before and they did it with against huge odds stacked against them. Watching them play today, I was proud and excited. I left for joy as they came out hot, I cringed as Michigan State came back, I was on my knees in agony as the final minute of the game unfolded. Would I have liked to win and advance? Yes….dear heavens yes.
We were so close…so very, very close.
It’s a special thing and while we have a great class coming in next year, there are no guarantees we’ll get back to the Elite Eight.
For now, I feel like I did when the football team lost to Alabama last year. But as I think back on the season and look back at where we got and how we got there, I’m proud to be a Volunteer fan. I wear the orange and white a lot and most people who know me will tell you I wear orange tinted glasses to see the world. But while the defeat stings for now, I feel proud of what this team did this year. To think that a team that I had declared done and over on January was a few seconds from going to the Final Four….I’m still amazed by that.
Thanks to the basketball team for one hell of a ride this year. It was a roller coaster, but, for the most part, I enjoyed it.
I have a feeling there will be a Brinks truck full of cash backing up to dump huge piles of money in Bruce Pearl’s driveway. And after seeing what he did this year and what he’s done for the past five years, he’s worth EVERY LAST PENNY…