February 2, 2012
7:00 PM EST
TV: CSS / ESPN3
Internet Audio: Lady Vols Network
Live Stats: GameTracker
11-12 (3-7 SEC)
16-6 (7-2 SEC)
The scene in TBA should be interesting today. Coming off the South Carolina loss, the Lady Vols know they have to find their groove again. Meanwhile, the fans are getting anxious and (rightly) doubting this year's team's ability to fare well in the NCAA tournament. The talent's in place; they just have to use it, but playing at the top of their game has been increasingly rare as the season wears on. Will this game give them a chance to turn things in the right direction, or will it be more of the same?
This is not the Auburn team that Tennessee is used to playing. At 11-12, the Lady Tigers are hard-pressed to get an NCAA invite, short of winning the SEC tournament. This is the kind of game that, over Summitt's career, would be a near-certain blowout. But for the blowout to happen, the Lady Vols have to speed their game up. Their overthinking and tightness causes them to slow down, allowing defenders to stay in position and making even the simplest tasks difficult. It's a team that is in a cycle of terrific practice sessions and terrible games, which taken with their obvious hesitancy on the court, indicates that the problem is not their ability to play with each other or to execute, but that they just don't have their heads on straight.
From here on to the end of the season, the focus is on one thing: will the Lady Vols overcome their mental blocks and just go out and play? In this game: will Tennessee find its groove, pull away, and deny Auburn any hope, or will they fumble their way to a closer-than-it-should-have-been outcome again?
This may very well be the most talented team in the NCAA, but Tennessee has a mental road to recovery ahead of it. That can start today against Auburn.