Despite the Vols choke job in Missouri Saturday, they will live to play again.
They may have one foot in the grave after losing a game that was there for the taking, but they can even the score March 8 in the regular season finale for both teams.
Tennessee will be the home team and one can only hope that their clock operations are significantly better than the ones in Missouri.
They also need to hone in on how to inbounds a pass when the pressure is on. Mark it down as one where poor coaching and poor execution created the perfect storm. It was more a comedy of errors on the Vols part than anything Missouri did. The Tigers tried to give it away, but the men in orange couldn’t accept it.
It was a crushing blow as Tennessee was one of the last teams in, according to several NCAA Tournament bracket predictors. Now they are one of the first teams out. What really hurt was Missouri would have been a road win over a top 50 RPI team.
The Vols need to keep their eye on the prize in their closing games. They should be favored in every game until Missouri comes to Thompson-Boling Arena.
An at-large big could be on the line with the winner of that game sneaking in the tournament, the loser getting an early spring break.
With each disappointing loss, the more the pressure builds for Athletics Director Dave Hart to make a coaching change. He has a program that is struggling to be one of the top 68 teams in the country.
Hart played college basketball at Florida State. He knows the game. He knows good basketball and bad basketball. What he has seen this season is bland, fundamentally bad basketball.
Third year coach Cuonzo Martin admitted after the game that his team had opportunities.
“We went back and forth and what it came down to was that some of our attempts from the 3-point line didn’t fall," he said.
In close games, you don’t need to be launching shots two-three feet behind the 3-point line. At that point you have plays designed to get the ball in the hands of your best shooters/scorers. You work on those plays every day in practice. I didn’t detect much of that going on in the Vols huddles or on the floor.
I’m not sure they have a leader that takes over a close game such as what Missouri’s Jabari Brown did for his team Saturday.
“We knew (Jordan) McCrae was going to get the ball in the end and I was able to switch it out,’’ Brown said after he made a key steal that would seal the game for the Tigers. “The guy threw it and I was able to make a play on it. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to get a win."
Brown anticipated where the ball was going. That is due to having a high basketball IQ and strong will to win.
I don’t see that guy on Tennessee’s roster. Who is their leader in crunch time? What is their personality? They are far from a well-oiled machine in Martin’s third year.
If junior Jarnell Stokes leaves for the NBA, the Vols will lose 40 points and 25.7 rebounds a game as it stands now.
Time is running out for the Vols this season. And, for Cuonzo Martin.
Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at email@example.com.