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Tennessee Volunteers: A reason to give thanks

It’s common to be thankful this time of year. In the world of Tennessee athletics, what do we have to be thankful for?

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Alabama v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

Prior to the COVID issues Tennessee basketball is currently experiencing, I had written a piece about what he have to be thankful for: the basketball team. But in light of recent news, I thought it would be best to alter the tone of the piece. Without further ado...

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us as we move towards punctuating a wild and hectic 2020. For many of us, we’re simply thankful that the year 2020 will be put in our rearview mirrors, but others have been thinking about sports in order to let go of everything else in the year. On the Tennessee Volunteers front, what do we have to be thankful for?

The football team started its season in promising fashion, picking up a pair of wins before heading into a pivotal game against the Georgia Bulldogs. As we know, the Vols lost that game in Athens and haven’t looked back since.

As the team continues to drop games, head coach Jeremy Pruitt is growing combative with the media. When asked how he’d respond to fans’ concerns about the trajectory of the program, according to The Athletic, Pruitt said, “It ain’t my job, guys. My job’s to coach, okay?” That’s left many fans wondering if he’s not in charge of answering questions about where the program’s headed, then who is?

More than that, those types of remarks have left an already disillusioned fanbase looking even harder at the future — but not of football. That brings me to what we have to be thankful for: Basketball.

The trouble now is that the Tennessee Volunteers basketball team’s aspirations have been undercut by COVID-19, including a positive test for head coach Rick Barnes. Cancellations and postponements have been a common refrain in the sports’ world since the pandemic began in March. College basketball seems as though it might be the most challenging endeavor, given the close playing proximity of the sport and, more importantly, a lack of bubble, like the NBA had to finish its season.

The Volunteers were set to being their season Wednesday night against the University of North Carolina-Charlotte 49ers, a member of Conference USA. That game was supposed to tip at 8 p.m. but was cancelled. Now the Volunteer Classic has been officially called off, which of course pushes back the Vols’ start date. It looked as though Tennessee would start the season in the Jimmy V classic against first ranked Gonzaga, but now that game has also been cancelled, in addition to a reported game against Notre Dame, according to UTSports.

As everyone probably knows by now, the men’s basketball team is slated to begin the season ranked 12th in the nation, according to the Associated Press. Even with a fairly high starting mark, many think this team will rise even higher, with multiple analysts even going so far as to pick Tennessee to win the Southeastern Conference over the Kentucky Wildcats.

Tennessee, led by seniors John Fulkerson and Yves Pons, will meet the Cincinnati Bearcats in Knoxville December 12, which will now be the first game of the season. Additionally, the team will play with the Kansas Jayhawks, currently ranked sixth in the nation, on January 30 at Thompson-Boling Arena, in addition to the strong schedule of conference matchups.

Some notable conference games include:

  • vs Vanderbilt (1/16)
  • at Florida (1/19)
  • at Kentucky (2/6)
  • vs Florida (2/10)
  • vs Kentucky (2/20)
  • at Vanderbilt (2/24)

During these crazy times, as sports fans, what we have to be thankful for is Tennessee basketball. While basketball can’t start yet, I am the belief that it will eventually get churning and the season will conclude in some capacity. Additionally, while it’s difficult to bear witness to the basketball team being sidelined for this long, I have to think that better days are on the horizon. Although delayed, here’s to a potential conference championship and a strong NCAA tournament run.