I was going to use the word "upset" in the headline, but I'm not sure that this was.
We could also talk about how this team didn't allow distractions to get in their way, but that's nothing new with our basketball program.
The story here is that the Vols are once again a team to be reckoned with - not later in the year once we've matured, but right here, right now. Tennessee finished off an impressive run in the Preseason NIT with an impressive win over #7 Villanova, again carried by our best players: 18 from Scotty Hopson, who discovers more and more each night that he can get to the basket at will. A double-double (17-10) from Tobias Harris in by far the biggest game of his very young career. 15 from Cameron Tatum, including 3 of 5 from the arc. And 12 points, 7 rebounds from Brian Williams on a night when foul trouble kept him on the bench more often than not.
Add in more clutch free throw shooting, including 7-of-8 from Melvin Goins, and the Vols pulled away late once again. While Tennessee's best players did most of the work offensively, this was yet again a total team effort on defense, holding the #7 Wildcats to 35.1% shooting and outrebounding them +4. Goins was particularly effective on Corey Fisher, who had six turnovers.
This mattered for March, but it matters for now as well: the Vols are for real. Kentucky has the talent, Florida has experience, Georgia and Vanderbilt are dangerous too...but in the first three weeks of the season, it's Tennessee who has made the strongest case for the best team in the SEC. Distractions and Top 10 opponents mattered not - the Vols executed on both ends in impressive fashion, and had more than enough to win all four of the games in this tournament.
UT goes to 5-0 and will host MTSU on Tuesday night before taking a break for final exams. On the other side of that break is another huge test, at #4 Pittsburgh. But the Vols will go to Pitt knowing they already have what it takes to beat a Top 10 Big East foe away from Knoxville.
BruceBall, Year Six had already gotten interesting off the court. But tonight proved we're capable of making it very interesting on the court too. Celebrate this one, Vol fans...and if we keep seeing the effort and play we saw tonight, it won't be the last time this year we score a big win.