Vols exhibiting signs of being bipolar for 2010-2011 season

Vols exhibiting signs of being bipolar for 2010-2011 season

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 5:09 pm
By: Warner Agee, Special to The Press

Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of Tennessee Men’s basketball 2010-11 version. 

The only thing consistent about this team so far is their total inconsistency. Early in the season, when they posted what now seems to be very improbable victories over top ten behemoths Villanova and Pittsburg on the road, the Volunteers appeared to have picked up where they had left off last season during their run to the first Elite Eight in school history. But a string of losses to mid-major competition and a second consecutive defeat at the hands of former head coach Kevin O’Neill’s Southern Cal Trojans sent the Vols limping into the opening week of the conference schedule.
After dropping a pair of league contests, the Vols hit one of those emotional highs, winning their next two SEC encounters, including a solid verdict on the road at Georgia. 

Writers and fans alike were calculating that maybe the team had turned the corner and would play with more confidence and urgency for the remainder of the winter. But alas, one of the most forgettable second halves of the Bruce Pearl era produced an embarrassing national television loss at Connecticut and  has the team on another depressing downer.
Many writers, talking heads and hoops fans believe that the Pearl suspension, the on-going and tedious wait to hear from the NCAA and a lack of team cohesion are the main culprits in this season’s fall from grace. 

Many also believe that the squad suffers from a lack of consistent leadership. Senior point guard Melvin Goins tries to step up and signal a positive direction along with senior center Brian Williams. However, veteran players such as Scotty Hopson and Cameron Tatum have been disappointing in all areas of the game. 

The most glaring problems seem to be that both lack superior ball handling skills and also play as if they are dragging a sled full of bricks behind them. Hopson has scored points at times, but when the pressure is on in come from behind situations, he has been woeful as a go-to type leader. 

At other times, several of the guys, including Hopson, appear to be sitting in a lecture in a boring statistics class rather than running the floor in a basketball contest.
Apparently this team can’t play the brand of basketball that allowed Pearl to compile the best record in the SEC over the past five seasons. 

This team can’t, or won’t press; they often display a low basketball IQ in certain time sensitive situations. Case in point was just last Saturday. With the shot clock off and the first half winding down, an out of control Hopson tried to charge the goal and then a last minute pass attempt resulted in a turnover and a three point basketball for UConn. That was a potential five point turn-around and a momentum buster in the last few seconds of a good first half for the Volunteers.
Assistant head coach Tony Jones resumes his temporary chores of running the show for the next four league games. 

The Vols will face LSU at home on Wednesday evening, play at Ole Miss and Auburn the next two and then return to Knoxville for an afternoon matinee against Alabama. 

If Jones can somehow, some way, go 3-1 over this four game stretch, UT will undoubtedly still be right in the middle of the race for the eastern division lead when Pearl returns from exile.
My educated guess is
to get in the NCAA tournament, it would appear on this date that Tennessee must at least have a .500 or better record in the conference. 

Two wins in the SEC tournament would also bolster the Vols’ resume. If they make it in, they can look back on those two early victories over Pitt and Villanova, plus a thrashing of then 21st ranked Memphis, as games that pushed the Big Orange into the big dance this year.
Signing day next week
Coach Derek Dooley plays the last few days of recruiting very close to the vest. Tennessee got one verbal commitment last week from a physical defensive back out of Georgia, but the final six or seven spots in the signing class and who will fill them are shrouded in mystery.
What we do know is this: Vol recruiters would like to add one more quality running back, an outside pass rusher, a defensive tackle/end and the top two prospects in the state, Antonio Richardson of Nashville and Cameron Clear of Memphis.      

wcp 1/27/11

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