History, with Even So Much More Possible
The very fine teams of the 1960’s with the likes of A.W. Davis, Red Robbins, Ron Widby, Tom Boerwinkle, Bill Justus, and Jimmy England couldn’t do it.
The great teams of the 1970’s with Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld, and Reggie Johnson didn’t do it.
The talented teams of the 1980’s with stars like Howard Wood, Dale Ellis, and Tony White didn’t make it.
The teams of the past decade with the talent of Allan Houston, Ron Slay, and Chris Lofton had their chances but didn’t break through.
Instead, a team nearly decimated on New Year’s by silly behavior somehow clawed their way through the SEC regular season (spurred by a wacky win over Number One-ranked Kansas) with a respectable record, and even though looking rather sluggish and out of sorts in the SEC tournament, made it into the NCAA tournament.
And on Friday evening, this team has brought the Vol Nation to the brink of a Final Four.
J.P. Prince and Wayne Chism, not the recipients of personal awards of those All-Americans mentioned above, led our Vols on Friday evening to a height never reached by the Orange and White. This is the first time that we can glimpse what a trip to the showcase part of the best tournament in sport might look like – what such a trip might actually feel like.
All previous visits to the last 16 left us wondering what it would be like to play for a Regional Championship – a chance to cut some net on the national level. Losses at this stage of the tournament in past years to Dayton, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Louisville left us disappointed and salivating for football season. On Sunday afternoon, we will actualize the aspirations of every fan of every player who ever donned the Orange and White on the hardwood – a chance to participate in the Final Four.
Looking back on what I just witnessed on my HDTV from St. Louis now seems a little blurry. But what happened (unless this is all a fantasy dream that will end in a cruel gaze at my ceiling when I wake up in a few minutes) was Tennessee dominating the paint (18-10 margin on offensive rebounds; a 36-23 edge overall), engaging in a relentless, spirited defensive effort in the second half, and converting an improbable 80 percent (12-15) from the stripe under the highest pressure yet to defeat The Ohio State University.
We left the Buckeyes a tired team – they were tired because we physically wore them out.
Just like nearly everybody else across the nation, my bracket is a mess. But my immediate future as a fan and alumnus is full of possibilities within the rarefied air of that unknown realm called the Elite Eight. The Tennessee Men’s Basketball Program has made history.
But there’s more history to be made – big-time history.
Can the Vols win Sunday to reach the Final Four? Why not?
Can Tennessee win next Saturday to reach the national title game? Why not?
Can Bruce Pearl lead this group of talented but improbable bunch of achievers to win the 2010 National Championship? Why Not?