I think it is safe to say Tennessee basketball could be one of the youngest teams in basketball this season, not full of one and done players. So yes, they are 4-4 overall this season, but just how close is this team from being a very good basketball team and a possible NCAA birth sleeper? I think the answer is very close.
The most recent evidence of that comes from a 73-71 defeat to the #7 ranked UNC Tar Heels. Much like Rick Barnes postgame statements, UT did not go there to feel good about themselves, they went there to win and they didn’t do that. However, I think this team won, they won over the remainder of VolNation who were maybe not all the way on board. Local media members thought the same thing, and seemed to be surprise by what they saw on Sunday afternoon.
It’s not only the Vols narrow loss to UNC in their first true road game, that leads me to believe they are almost good. With 12:09 left against Wisconsin, the Vols led 46-44. Their youth matched with Wisconsin’s veteran line up, proved to be too much, as they fell by 12. Also, Tennessee had a chance at another top 15 team in Oregon. Trailing by 11 in the second half, the Vols forced that game in to overtime, before eventually falling to the Ducks 69-65. Add to that, a 23 point blowout win against ACC foe Georgia Tech, and it appears that Tennessee is heading in the right direction.
I think people forget that Tennessee coach, Rick Barnes, actually can coach the heck out of some basketball. He had 1 losing season (16-18 in 2012-2013) in his 17 years as Texas’ head coach, and only 3 losing season’s in his 29-year career as a head coach.
Now, I am not saying Tennessee will make a run to the sweet 16, or even make the NCAA tournament. However, I do feel very confident they will finish above their projected 13th place finish in the SEC, and possibly sneak in to the big dance, if they continue to improve and play the way they have to this point this season.