February 29, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers center Yemi Makanjuola (0) and teammates celebrate a basket in overtime against the LSU Tigers at the Maravich Assembly Center. Tennessee defeated LSU 69-74 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-US PRESSWIRE
Will nailed it last night, calling Tennessee's 74-69 overtime road win against LSU the team's defining moment. If you're a Vol fan, you've probably heard it a thousand times yet still want to hear it again: a team thought to be 11th in the league has won 7 of its last 8 and 3 of its last 4 road games and is one game away from completing the regular season as the league's runner up. Runner up to a team widely viewed to be the nation's best.
In many ways, last night's game mirrored the season. The team got neither a free throw nor an offensive rebound the entire first half, but they battened down the hatches in the second half and overtime and found enough offense to end up in the win column. Trae Golden, who was a liability for most of regulation, just kept coming and won the game with nine points in OT. They finished well after a horrible start.
And let me ask the selection committee a humble rhetorical question. What matters most about last night? That we looked horrid in the first half or that we, ahem, won the game?
And which of the following has NCAA basketball claimed as the fundamental premise underlying the conclusion to the season: (1) That the system should endeavor to crown the best team of the season overall the champion, like the BCS does for football, or (2) that the system should utilize a tournament that sets the stage for the potential drama of a team getting hot at the right time knocking off teams with better season resumes? In other words, does it care more about early or late?
NCAA basketball is great because of the Big Dance, and March is Mad precisely because it favors Tournament Champions over regular season resumes. It cares more about now than it does about then. And no team that I know of is more different in February than it was in December. So spare me the "body of work" stuff if this team beats Vandy on Saturday and wins a couple in the SEC Tournament.
Etceteras. If you can make it to Thompson-Boling on Saturday, you should. It will be a sell out, and by the way, Tennessee is going to finish in the top five in the nation in average home attendance. . . . UT-LSU post-game notes . . . UT-LSU post-game quotes . . . Check out this list of Tennessee baseball walk-up songs, which, if you're like me, may be the coolest thing you didn't know about baseball . . . Matt Hinton calls it quits at Dr. Saturday. So long, Matt.