(Photo taken from UT basketball IG)
This is team is so fun to watch. I love them. No, I LOVE THEM! Top to bottom, this team is special. They play off of each other and they play as a team. Their pre-game warm dunk with the entire team jumping; “One fly. We all fly” is pure fire.
The second half of the Alabama game was horrible for my heart rate. For the first time all season, they were shook! (Mom, this is not a type-O. “Shook” is a word all the cool kids are using these days to mean scared.) They were getting out played, but they found a way to win.
Rick Barnes said after the game “I hate to say it, but we needed a game like this.” He didn’t want to call a timeout in the second half because he wanted to see how his team would respond. Great players find a way to win. Even though Admiral had his worst shooting game of the season (4-17), and he still found a way to score 12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
The last time the Vols were ranked #1 in the country was 2008 and the next game they lost to Vanderbilt. Well, here we are again in 2019 and the Vols are ranked #1 in country and playing Vanderbilt on the road. The Vols started on a 15-2 run and then they forgot to play defense, Schofield wasn’t in rhythm, and Bowen and Alexander couldn’t hold on to the ball. And then, that Bowden smash gave the Vols a little of their swager back and craziness continued. Bone fed the ball to Grant Williams and Grant went full on beast mode by carrying the entire team on his back. The 2018 SEC player of the year scored a career high of 43, FOURTY-THREE, points and went 23 for 23 at the foul line. Can I get two hand-claps and Ric Flair? WOOO
The Vols are now on a 13-game win streak (the longest win streak since 1923) and ranked the number one team in the country. For a team that was picked to finish 13th in the SEC last year to now be ranked number one in the country is flat out incredible!
There are ZERO, (say it like my dad would and make sure you make a zero with your hand and drag out the word, ZZZZZEROOO while straightening your arm) top 100 recruits on the roster. Here are the players and their rank:
DJ Burns 108
Yves Pons 127
Lamonte Turner 144
Jalen Johnson 147
Jordan Bone 171
Grant Williams 191
Zach Kent 203
John Fulkerson 238
Admiral Schofield 251
Jordan Bowden 262
Derrick Walker 270
Kyle Alexander 362
DJ Burns is a red-shirt freshman who has played ZZZEROOOO minutes. So that means their highest ranked player who actually plays is ranks at 127 and Pons isn’t even a regular starter. Turner at 144 and Johnson at 147 are also not starters. The highest ranked starter is 171, Jordan Bone! Let me say that again, the highest ranked starter is ranked 171! This is called coaching! And after the defense in the last two games, Coach Barnes is going to unleash on them in practice!
These last two games have made my heart beat so fast that I thought I was going to need a defibrillator. For those of you that think I don’t have a heart, this team is proof that I do in fact have a heart. I was scared to be ranked #1. As a Tennessee fan, I know that to be ranked #1 in January and think we can stay at #1 AND win the National Championship is a lot of pressure and very unfamiliar territory for UT fans.
A team that has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll in January has won the National Championship in the last 21 out of 25 years. The AP poll’s first season was 1948-49. Since then, only eleven team have been ranked number one in January and won the National Championship.
The difference is going to be this team’s mental ability to remain on top. Physically, they can play with anyone and they can beat anyone. The struggle on defense is real. A real concern that is 100% fixable. I know Rick Barnes will get this team mentally and physically ready to battle every game. Opponents play their best when they are playing the best. This will be a season of survive and advance and we are still the number one team in the country.