NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 26: Tobias Harris #12 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates a basket with teammate Scotty Hopson #32 against the Villanova Wildcats during the Championship game at Madison Square Garden on November 26 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Let's just go ahead and say that the college basketball season is about 35 games long. And after twelve minutes of research and four Sam Adams Winter Ales, I can confidently say that Final Four teams are the ones that emerge from the wreckage at the end of the year, and not the beginning. So you started off the season 7-0? Good for you. Good for you. It doesn't mean anything. Never does.
But sometimes when a team comes out of the blocks with some momentum, people out there like to take crazy pills and pull out their jump to conclusions mats. We call those knee-jerk reactions in the sports world, and as much as we hate to admit it, we had one of these about three weeks ago when "Vols" and "Final Four contender" were placed in the same sentence (unfortunate). So consider this our knee-jerk retraction to our ill-fated knee-jerk reaction.
Red hot in our senses after stifling a well-coiffed Jamie Dixon and his Pittsburgh squad, SFBE's own Nick Fasulo gave us this on December 12th. Let's dissect, eh?
Not only do they boast an unblemished 7-0 record, they're winning convincingly, winning on the road, and winning against top-tiered teams in basketball-centric conferences (we're referring to Villanova and Pittsburgh). Yesterday's beatdown of the Panthers is on a short and unofficial list of truly impressive victories we have witnessed this season, and was only the third time a Jamie Dixon club allowed 80+ points since February of 2009.
Not only have they gone 2-4 in their last six, they barely slid by Belmont and Tennessee-Martin, have played like complete trash at home, and are struggling to hang with the mid-majorest of mid-majors. Yesterday's chokejob against the Cougars was the single worst loss we've witnessed all season from Pearl's bunch.
Why can't Tennessee just crumble like they're supposed to? Well, it's pretty clear that isn't going to happen. Scotty Hopson, complete with a delectable CB4-inspired fade, has propelled himself into the SEC POY chatter, and may be one of the best wings in all of college basketball. He's what Michigan State's Durrell Summers could/should be, boasting a 60 percent true shooting percentage and consistently breaking down defenders en route to the rim.
Well it's pretty clear that it has already happened. Hopson is light years away from touching Chris Rock's fade, and especially not after shooting an abysmal 8 for 31 in three consecutive losses. Seems to me that he's clanking his way out of the SEC POY chitter chatter, and might just be one of the most inconsistent wings in all of college basketball. I'll take Durrell Summers any day of the week.
At full strength, Tennessee has proved they're worthy of being considered as one of the top teams in the country, especially if they cut down on their 16.6 turnovers a game - easily the team's most glaring deficiency.
At half strength, Tennessee would probably be a pretty intriguing mid-major in the Summit League or something. Especially with their 185th ranked assist to turnover ratio and still glaringly deficient 14.5 turnovers per game.
Assuming they don't crumble with Pearl watching from afar, the Volunteers' January 22nd match-up against UConn in Hartford is a real opportunity to propel this team in to the Final Four discussion. I am not even kidding.
Assuming Pearl is hiding in a sea of body paint in the stands, the Volunteers' January 8th home date against Florida is the next opportunity you'll get to watch this once-talented team crap the bed on their own floor. Seriously.