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Basketball Vols take shiny new No. 3 ranking to Rupp, John Calipari squirms

Update [2008-1-22 10:16:28 by Joel]: Oh, my. I was terribly remiss in neglecting to link to excellent Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue, especially to this fantastic post that features numbers and all sorts of other mysterious stuff. Apologies to Tru. Still hope we beat you mercilessly this evening, but . . . nice charts!

Well, whaddya know, the basketball Vols are No. 3 in the AP poll, behind Memphis and Kansas. That thar's a school record, y'all. Memphis coach John Calipari must feel threatened or something because he's acting ugly. Well, maybe that's just his way. We don't play the Tigers until February 23, but ole John already has a couple of choice quotes for Tennessee fans.

First up:

[the Vols] foul, like on every possession.

My response: Like, ya know, oh really?


Tennessee will try to come [to the city of Memphis] and recruit some, but the kids we want here, we're going to get.

My response: tell that to this year's best player from Memphis, Elliot Williams, who chose . . . drumroll . . . Duke. I say coach Pearl goes and gets Leslie McDonald, who has Memphis, Tennessee, and a handful of other high-profile basketball programs on his list for 2009. Like, ya know, just for spite and stuff. And yes, I just called Tennessee a "high-profile basketball program." Get used to it.

But that's next month. Tonight, we've got ourselves a second Orange Jacket game in less than a week, when Tennessee travels to Rupp Arena to put its shiny new No. 3 national ranking on the line against the Kentucky Wildcats. Yes, Caintuck's lost at home to Gardner-Webb and San Diego, but they are beginning to find their legs under new head coach Billy Gillispie. They commenced SEC play by beating unbeaten Vanderbilt in double overtime. They then fought back from double-digit deficits at SEC West leader Mississippi State and at Florida only to barely lose, 69-64 against the Bulldogs and 81-70 in overtime against the Gators.

Win tonight, and the Vols will have their best start in school history. What does coach Pearl have to say about that? Well, he prefers to just live in the now. I guess the time for gazing at trophies is after you've done the thing for which the trophy is awarded, not during. Novel concept.

Tonight could be the night that Chris Lofton finds his stroke. The Discombobulator has hit 63.2% (12 of 19) of his threes and averaged 24 points in two games at Rupp. He needs five three-pointers to set the SEC record. What does Lofton have to say about that? Well, he just wants to win.

Remember, once upon a time (early this season), when Ramar Smith went 0-12 on free throws in a single game? Well, he's now the SEC's leading free-throw shooter, having made 14 of his 15 attempts. Credit the motivation that that 0-12 non-SEC start provided.

P.S. Former Vol C.J. Watson, who was recently called up to play for the NBA's Golden State Warriors, is blogging the experience:

When I was coming to check into the game, fans were yelling "Go CJ, we are proud of you" and when I checked into the game and the announcer said my name, everyone stood up and started cheering for me. That was the moment of my life, I can go ahead and die now. I’m just joking, but you know what I mean. I busted out a big smile while running down the court. I know, lame right? But I had to, I was happy and couldn't think of anything else, because we had the ball on offense and I didn't want to turn it over. I was so excited, I don't think I would have hit the rim if I shot the ball. But the only shots I took that game were threes, and they all went in, and were big shots for the team. So I can finally say I helped contribute to a victory for my team on the NBA level. Hopefully it won't be the last.

My phone hasn't stopped ringing for like the past week-- people congratulating me, making ticket requests already, and other stuff. But it’s been a rollercoaster ride, and I'm glad it all paid off. I still have a lot of work to do. I'm not finished just yet, though, stay tuned for more from the Quiet Storm!!!

Big tip o' the hat to Seth of Double T Nation for the link.

See all y'all tonight at the game thread. Tipoff's at 9:00 EST. Go Vols!