Monday, March 29, 2010

Vols One Point Short of Making the Final Four

So close, yet so far for Tennessee. J.P. Prince's desperation heave fell short as the Vols fell to Michigan State 70-69 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Big Orange certainly had a chance to make it to their first Final Four in team history, but missed free throws down the stretch really hurt the Vols.

Sad ending aside, this Tennessee team will go down as one of my favorites. They may not have won an SEC Title like the Bernie and Ernie show in the 70's or achieved a number one ranking like the 2007-2008 team, but they overcame so much and got further in the Big Dance than any Vol team before.

Remember your reaction when your heard the news about the New Year's Day arrests and the dismissal of Tyler Smith? All the expectations we had for this season were thrown out the window.

Then days later the Volunteers upset top ranked Kansas with only six scholarship players, knocked off Kentucky, and made a gritty run through the NCAA tournament.

This team is by far Bruce Pearl's best coaching job. He had to change the way the team played after the arrests, and use literally everyone on the bench. When people say it was a team effort, they really mean it with this Vol squad. We all know the contributions of Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince, Bobby Maze, Brian Williams, Scotty Hopson, Cameron Tatum, and Melvin Goins.

However, you can't forget Renaldo Woolridge's huge three point baskets against Kansas, Kenny Hall stepping up when Chism and Williams were in foul trouble, Steven Pearl playing great defense and taking charges, Josh Bone coming up big in the OT game against Ole Miss and the great play in the Tournament, and of course Skylar McBee's huge three point dagger against Kansas.

When I look back on this team I will always smile. Thank you Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers for a great season! IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tennessee Finally Among the Elite

No one ever saw this coming on New Year's Day. After four Vols were arrested, Tyler Smith dismissed from the team and three others suspended, not even the most optimistic Tennessee fans could have seen this.

Tennessee dominates in the paint and J.P. Prince blocks superstar Evan Turner's desperation three at the buzzer as Tennessee defeated Ohio State 76-73 and advanced to their first Elite Eight in school history.

It was a complete contrast in styles. Ohio State had to rely on their superstar to do everything, while Tennessee used almost their entire team to get it done. Led by the seniors, Wayne Chism scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, Bobby Maze made the clutch free throws at the end, and of course Prince had the big block.

I am so proud of my Vols. You have to admire everyone on the team. After the nightmare of New Year's Day, this team has rallied and taken the Volunteers somewhere they have never gone before. And they are not done yet!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tennessee Dominates Ohio and is into the Sweet 16

This Cinderella had enough. The great Ohio perimeter shooting that took the Bobcats through the MAC Tournament as a ninth seed and blew out Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was shut down by the Tennessee Vols. Tennessee won 83-68 and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years.

You have to credit the great defense of Bobby Maze, Scotty Hopson, and J.P. Price. Ohio guards Armon Bassett and D.J. Coleman lit up Georgetown in the first round, but the Vols were ready on the defensive end and stifled their attack and did not let Cinderella work her magic again.

The Vols did a fantastic job of defending ball screens, which the Bobcats use to try and get their shooters open. Instead, they were harassed by the long arms of Hopson, Maze, and Prince. Bassett, who had scored in double figures in 14 consecutive games, made only two of 10 field-goal tries and scored seven points. Cooper had 16 points but made just five of 13 shots.

Tennessee did have prior experience in defending quick players out on the perimeter this season. South Carolina's Devan Downey (the conference's leading scorer) made just nine of 38 shots in two losses to the Vols.

The Bobcats were no match for Tennessee in the paint either. Every time Tennessee got the ball down low, something good happened. Credit does have to go to the Bobcats who tried to claw their way back into the game behind Tommy Freeman who had 23 points and cut the Tennessee lead to five with a three with 13 minutes left in the game. Tennessee was able to break through Ohio's press for some quick and easy points and they never looked back.

Tennessee did not play a perfect game by any means. They have to cut down on some of the turnovers. Tennessee had 16 turnovers and many of them could have been avoided. Most of them came on very sloppy and lazy passes. If Tennessee wants to advance past either Georgia Tech or Ohio State, they will have to be more careful with the ball.

Still, it is great to see the Vols back in the Sweet 16!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tennessee RB Bryce Brown Leaves Team

With all the attention rightfully being paid to the Vols and Lady Vols in March Madness, many did not notice that spring practice got underway for the football Volunteers. What was supposed to be a celebration of Derek Dooley's first day as head coach, it was overshadowed by the departure of heralded Vol running back Bryce Brown.

Dooley said Brown told him Thursday that he was dealing with family and personal problems that included "some of the reasons why he came here." Brown was not present for practice.

Brown was one of the top-rated running back prospects in the country last year when he signed with the Vols under then-coach Lane Kiffin. Brown arrived with huge expectations and played behind Montario Hardesty as a freshman. He showed flashes, but also battled injuries. Dooley has stated that Brown has not been kicked off the team so the door is still open for him to return. However I do not think he is coming back.

I am really not that surprised by Brown's departure. He was the cheery on top of Kiffin's class last year so of course some controversy surrounded him. Sure I thought he could be a great back and at times showed that he could not only be a solid runner, but had soft hands and could catch the ball coming out of the backfield.

The good news is, Tennessee still has a nice stable of running backs to fill the void. Junior Tauren Poole is the leading candidate going into the spring, but sophomore David Oku and redshirt freshman Toney Williams will also be part of the Vols' running back equation.

Still a long time till Labor Day weekend, but it is good to be talking some football again.

Tennessee Gives Seth Davis a Big Orange Middle Finger

The first thing out of Sports Illustrated/CBS commentator/douche bag yesterday was that Tennessee would be upset by San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Well the Vols shut him up for at least a little while as they beat the Aztecs 62-59 in a slugfest last night to advance in the big dance.

Melvin Goins led the way for the Volunteers scoring a career high 15 points and hitting a clutch (or as Bill Raftery says, "ONIONS"!) three pointer with 14 seconds left in the game to give the Vols a four point lead. Goins then of course gave those three points back after fouling Aztec D.J. Gay shooting a three who then made all three free throws to shrink the Vol lead to one.

It then came down to senior and team leader Wayne Chism who made a pair of free throws with 7.4 seconds left to put the Vols up three. Aztec star Kawhi Leonard then missed a three at the buzzer to give the Vols the win and give head coach Bruce Pearl a nice 50th birthday present.

Yes Goins led the way in scoring, but it was the Vol Seniors who refused to let the team lose. Chism had the clutch free throws and 11 points, Maze added 11 points and played solid defense, while J.P. Prince scored 15 and more importantly played great defense holding Leonard to 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting while also pulling down six rebounds.

Up next for the Volunteers is a second round match up against 14 seed Ohio tomorrow at 3:35 pm. Ohio surprised everyone and ruined many brackets by dominating Georgetown last night 97-83.

I think the Vols will matchup well against the Bobcats. D.J. Cooper scored 23 and Armon Bassett scored 32 for Ohio, mainly from three point range. Good thing the Vols have a great three point defense. If they shut down the three and play great in the post the Vols should be in the Sweet 16.

Enjoy the Madness today and this weekend!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vols and Lady Vols in the Big Dance!

Since Bruce Pearl has been at Tennessee it has been real nice to cheer on both the Vols and Lady Vols in the NCAA Tournament. During those four "glorious" years under Buzz Peterson, I was at Tennessee as an undergrad and only had the Lady Vols to root for. With both teams in, March Madness is even better!

So let's take a look at what the Vols and Lady Vols have in store for them. Ladies first!

After an absolute dreadful year last season, in which the Lady Vols failed to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in their history, Pat Summitt put the Lady Vols to work and they are back where they belong as a number one seed.

Tennessee is also back to being absolutely dominant in the low post with Kelly Cain, Alyssia Brewer, and Glory Johnson. The Lady Vols averaged ten more rebounds a game then their opponents. Add leading scorer Angie Bjorklund with do everything Shekinna Stricklen running the point and the Lady Vols are a very dangerous team. The biggest problems this season for the Lady Vols is that Cain and Brewer have to stay out of foul trouble, and as a team they are only shooting 67.8% from the free throw line.

The team to beat for the Lady Vols is UConn who have now won an NCAA record 72 straight games. If things go the way they should, Tennessee would meet UConn in the national semifinal. This is actually better historically for the Lady Vols because they have not defeated UConn in a NCAA Championship Final. Looking forward to seeing if Tennessee can bring home title number nine!

Meanwhile, the Tennessee men's team end up with a six seed and face a good San Diego State team in the first round. Many are disappointed with the Vols' seed, myself included. What I think the selection committee looked at was that Tennessee's eight losses were by an average of 14.9 points. On top of that, the last loss was the 29 point beat down by Kentucky after the Vols had cut it to six midway through the second half. I still think Tennessee should have been a four seed but we can't worry about that now.

I still think the Vols can make a run in the tournament. Tennessee matches up well against the Aztecs. Both teams score in the low 70s and that scoring is spread around the whole team. SDSU is led by freshman Kawhi Leonard who plays a lot like Wayne Chism but lacks some experience. Tennessee is finally up against a team that shoots worse free throws than they do. SDSU only shoots 61.7% which makes the Big Orange's 66.9% look outstanding.

What Tennessee also has going for it is that all the so called "experts" including Sports Illustrated/CBS douche Seth Davis think Tennessee has nothing left and will be out quickly. I believe the Vols can beat the Aztecs and then play a possible second round match-up against Georgetown.

This is one of my favorite times of year. LET THE MADNESS BEGIN!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vols Win Ugly and Advance

I have always said, I will take an ugly win over a fantastic loss. Tennessee was in that category as they really did not get into the flow of their first round SEC Tournament game against LSU.

Wayne Chism led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and doing everything he could to fire the Vols up and lead them to victory. Brian Williams answered the call, pulling down a career high 14 rebounds, while Bobby Maze scored 14 points, nine of them from the free throw line late to seal the win.

Bottom line is, Tennessee will have to play much better today against an Ole Miss team that has won four straight games and are squarely on the bubble. A win over Tennessee would definitely help their resume. Meanwhile, if Tennessee can keep winning they might just move up in the seeding from a 4 to a 3, and if they win the whole shindig, they might move up to a 2 seed.

Today's winners:

Kentucky over Alabama/Tennessee over Ole Miss/Florida over Mississippi State/Vanderbilt over Florida

Enjoy the games and the Madness!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SEC Tournament Preview

March Madness is here! I love this time of year! You have all the small schools competing for their place in the dance, while the losers have to sit there and watch the other team celebrate.

Also, some of the greatest basketball games in history take place in conference tournaments. Who can forget UConn and Syracuse playing a 6 OT classic last year? Jesse and I sure don't!

Today the SEC Tournament tips off and the Vols face LSU. What stinks about this is that Tennessee is the #13 team in the country and had the third best record in the SEC, yet they still have to play on day one because of the way the seedings in the SEC Tournament work.

In the other conferences that have 12 teams (Big XII and ACC) they do not divide the teams into divisions in basketball and rank them 1-12 and the top four teams would get a first round bye. Here is how it would look in the SEC:

1. Kentucky 14-2
2. Vanderbilt 12-4
3. Tennessee 11-5
4. Florida 9-7
5. Mississippi State 9-7
6. Ole Miss 9-7
7. Arkansas 7-9
8. South Carolina 6-10
9. Alabama 6-10
10. Auburn 6-10
11. Georgia 5-11
12. LSU 2-14

In this formula Tennessee would have a first round bye and play the winner of Ole Miss vs. Georgia. However in the SEC, the teams that finish 1 and 2 in both the east and west divisions get the byes. So despite the fact that Tennessee has a better record and beat MSU and Ole Miss head to head, the Bulldogs and the Rebels have the byes and if Tennessee is to win the tournament, they would have to play four games.

Yes it is not fair to Tennessee this season, and I am sure this system has benefited Tennessee in the past, but it should be something the SEC changes for next year.

As for today, Tennessee has to be on the lookout for LSU. Yes they were only 2-14 in the SEC, but the Tigers played the Vols tough in Baton Rouge earlier this season and Tasmin Mitchell is a great player who can take over a game. I still think the Vols get the win but it will not be easy.

Today's winners:

South Carolina over Alabama/Tennessee over LSU/Florida over Auburn/Georgia over Arkansas

Enjoy the games and the Madness!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shibster's Oscar Picks

Yes, we all know I am a huge sports nut. I also take pride in my movie collection as well. Sometimes there is nothing better than watching a great movie. So the Academy Awards is one of my favorite non-sports events to watch. While I may not be a top movie critic or have seen, all the nominated movies, I do think I know what I am talking about when I pick my winners.

So here are my Oscar Picks for all the major categories in 2010:

Best Picture - The Hurt Locker

It is quite possibly the best war movie I have ever seen. And I have seen plenty. Yes, Avatar was an event and looked amazing, but of all the movies I saw that year, the Hurt Locker was by far the best.

Best Actor - Jeff Bridges

I really like Jeremy Renner's performace in the Hurt Locker, but Bridges' portrayal of Bad Blake is sublime. Like Mickey Rourke last year in The Wrestler, you just feel all the pain this washed up man goes through and you are truly rooting for him.

Best Actress - Sandra Bullock

Playing a modern day strong hearted southern belle Leigh Anne Tuohy, Bullock plays the role of her career. Made us forget her role in All About Steve. Of course since Meryl Streep is nominated again, who knows?

Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz

Waltz awesomely plays Col. Hans Landa, a sinister Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. This is the award this year where if he doesn't win, I will be annoyed.

Best Supporting Actress - Mo'Nique

Best known for her comedy, Mo'Nique is absolutely evil as an abusive mother in Precious.

Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow

She makes us feel every explosion and make you want to get the sand off, despite the fact that you are sitting in the theatre.

So there you have it. Enjoy the show! Feel free to make fun of me when I am wrong on all of these.