It was a “check the media guide” night, and sadly not in the fun way. Apparently I’d blocked from memory that Vanderbilt hit 18 threes against us in 2005, the Thompson-Boling Arena record. In Rick Barnes’ tenure, at least, the only teams to hit more than the 14 Missouri fired through tonight were Auburn, Colgate, and Purdue in 2019…who all did it in a span of 11 days against maybe our best team ever.
This sport can be weird.
In that department, I’m pretty sure I haven’t blocked from memory the Vols being on the wrong end of back-to-back buzzer beaters. That’s new. As such, it will be a new experience for this team to move forward from.
For what it’s worth, I thought all of this was good:
The good news here: all the big picture questions we might have or the feeling sorry for ourselves vibes have no choice but to go through #3 Alabama next.
They’ll go to Rupp Arena after that, but we’re healthiest at one-at-a-time, and no matter what this next one is our biggest one.
Health will continue to be a question mark, now both for Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips, who was off to a nice start in ten minutes tonight. In response, Tyreke Key played 31 minutes, his most since 34 at Arizona. And he was on fire in the second half, finishing with 23 points on 13 shots. The Vols did their part offensively, with 12 threes and 26 free throws. The heartbreak is the only option for the lead story tonight, no doubt. But Tennessee almost beat what was an eight seed in the Bracket Matrix when they shot 14-of-26 (53.8%) from three, while playing without two starters. It’s a situation you live with more easily if it ended in different fashion.
But again: it’s all forward, and against what will feel like our biggest test. It’s a great opportunity to reframe the narrative of what this season still is, and still can be.
I’m really eager to see what’s next.
Nice balance and perspective… while the regular season is positioning for the tournament, the tournament is what will be remembered. “Clear the Head” and move on… Go Vols!