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Posted: Sunday, January 26th, 2020, 11:10 PM • Permalink
Thanks To All: That turned out for our Kansas Watch Party at Wild Boar on Emory Road. Plus several thousand people listened to us after the game. We had football game numbers after that game. And why not? Tennessee's basketball team looked back to life on Saturday. Can they sustain it? It will be interesting. I just had a funny feeling Tennessee was going to be in that game in Phog Allen. I'm really proud of the lads and the way that they played.

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Orange Throat leads off today.

Orange Throat
'Thinking Fan Nation:

SCOREBOARD LOSS BUT MAYBE A SPRINGBOARD: There were so many good things to extract from a hard-fought loss at the Phog House Saturday … Yves (St. Laurent) Pons was spectacular, Jordy Bowden announced he was back, the Incredible Fulk looked like he belonged against a one-seed on the road and Vesco played 32 minutes without a turnover. Your correspondent agrees with Tony’s statement on the Garza OT Show. Rick Barnes’ team certainly looked NCAA tournament worthy in this matchup.

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ON THE OTHER HAND, TRIPLE J STRUGGLED. He was 0-6 shooting and committed six turnovers, and Barnes got only one point and one rebound (Jalen Johnson in 23 minutes) from his bench. Barnes wisely played Plav for only four minutes. The Jayhawks only played seven players and were certainly shorthanded on inside depth, due to the suspensions/

THE SEC/BIG 12 CHALLENGE WAS A PUSH. Each league won five games and covered five times. Kentucky got an overtime win at Lubbock and Baylor whipped Florida at the Chlorine Center. LSU got a nice win at Texas but Oklahoma State won on the Aggies’ home court. Thankfully, Vandy didn’t participate and got blowed out at South Carolina.

THE SCHED IS ABOUT TO GET TOUGHER. The aforementioned Aggies (#169 Kenpom) come to The Thom tomorrow night, then the Vols (#49) travel to Mississippi State (#41) and Alabama (#42) for the next two. A split would keep the Vols very much on track, with a big opportunity next at home against Kentucky (#25) on Feb. 8.

VOLS “LOSE” SHERRER TO GIANTS: Jeremy Pruitt now has $1.2 million available in his coaching staff salary pool. ILB and special teams coach Kevin Sherrer landed a job with the N.Y. Football Giants. He was facing the final year of his three-year deal at $700,000 per year, pretty pricey for a guy who couldn’t land Jay Hardy. Pruitt and Sherrer go way back, back to the Hoover High School days, and Pruitt gave him the DC title when the two landed in Knoxville. That lasted a year, then Sherrer got the special teams coordinator title. So, we’ll give him credit for the onside kick against the Hoosiers and trust our head coach will find a better recruiter to fill the position.

PRUITT WADES INTO DEEP WATER IN HOUSTON. He has thrown Tennessee’s hat into the ring to compete for the signature of 2020 top-ranked RB Zachary Evans. With nothing to lose, he has put his best recruiter (Brian Niedermeyer) on the case and the Vols hosted the Houstonian this weekend. The UT football program rolled out the orange carpet for Evans, including paint the rock.

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KELLI HARPER OFF TO A GOOD START. Her talent isn’t yet at the top level, but the new Lady Vol coach is getting high marks for putting a scrappy team on the floor. Her squad is also noticeably lacking the off-the-court drama that was present behind the scenes during the ill-fated Holly Warlick era. After disposing of LSU yesterday, the Lady Vols sit at 16-4 overall and are tied for second in the SEC with a 6-1 worksheet. Warlick’s last team was 19-12 and 7-9 and bowed out of the tourney in the first round as a #11 seed.

Orange Throat'

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Throaty ...
Starting with football ... As it does pay the bills here ...

Sherrer obviously got out while the getting was good. That sudden jump to the NFL is probably the quickest he's moved since he's been in Knoxville. I hear Derek Dooley has been linked to a job there. When are the Giants going to hire Butch Jones? 'X' was right in that Pruitt learned a lesson his friends. Your friends will get you fired in many cases. Talk to anybody in that business and they'll tell you that friends are tough to run off.

Amazingly, Pruitt may live to tell the tale here because that staff he opened his time with at Tennessee, though very expense and allegedly accomplished on the recruiting trail, has been pretty underwhelming in bringing in ball players. 'X' is of the belief that Tennessee needs to prune some recruiting deadwood once what used to be NSD occurs.

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Potential Coaching Scenario I'm Hearing Floated: I'm hearing one possibility is that Joe Osovet could take Brian Niedermeyer's TEs job then Niedermeyer would head to the defensive side of the ball. Sherrer leaving frees up some money to perhaps hire Jay Graham or maybe Tennessee could save a few bucks and go younger with Montario Hardesty.

Plus I keep hearing there could be another change or two coming on defense. Still I hear that Chris Weinke is safe as QB's coach. He must've done a nice job last year. Maybe there's more than meets the eye to him.

On UT Hoops: That was an incredible performance by Tennessee Saturday. What else can anyone say about a team that played as purposeful and as hard as the Vols did as double digit underdog? The coaching staff really brought their A game and sharpened their pencils for that one.
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Matt Dixon is up next.

Matt Dixon
'Tennessee didn’t win and there are no moral victories with a $5 million coach, but the Volunteers more than held their own at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

It was the best the offense has looked all season, especially given the competition. Kansas had held eight of their last nine opponents to 60 points or fewer. Tennessee finished with 68, despite only four Vols making a basket.

Yves Pons played the best game of his career, scoring 24 points, grabbing seven boards, blocking three shots, all while guarding both Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike at times. This is the game that will get Air France on NBA teams’ radars, similar to Admiral Schofield’s 2nd half vs Gonzaga last year.

John Fulkerson is never gonna be a star, but he’s a more than capable big-man in today’s college basketball. Despite the loss, the Vols are still 11-2 this season when Fulky scores in double-figures.
My biggest takeaway from Saturday is Tennessee’s front court with Pons and Fulky will be good enough next year for the Vols to be Final Four contenders if Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer play like 5-stars. Springer made three or four passes on Saturday vs Catholic that Fulky or Pons will slam home next season.

This year’s 5-star — Josiah-Jordan James —had by far his worst game of the year vs the Jayhawks. He grabbed seven rebounds (only one offensive, which didn’t result in points), had six turnovers and only four assists. He played so poorly that Rick Barnes went with Jalen Johnson down the stretch instead of the freshman.

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For this team to continue to build on the last two-and-a-half games and make the NCAA Tournament, Triple J has to step up and be this team’s primary point guard. One of the reasons the Vols couldn’t score late when they had chances to make it a one-possession game was because James wasn’t running the offense, which forced Santiago Vescovi and Jordan Bowden to handle the ball instead of getting open looks.

Bowden only played seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but exploded for 19 points in the second. He was even 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Entering Saturday, Bowden was just 6-of-45 (13.3%) from three in the seven games without Lamonte Turner.

Vescovi had a really good first half, but didn’t score the final 20 minutes and continues to be a liability defensively, letting his guy drive the lane way too easy. Still, he didn’t turnover the ball over, which was very encouraging.

I thought Tennessee’s game plan was solid and the decision to force Azubuike to make free throws late was the right call, but I was completely mystified by the lineup Barnes put on the court late in the first half.

With Tennessee leading 26-19, Kansas came out of a timeout with Azubuike back in, but the Vols had Drew Pember, Jalen and Olivier Nkamhoua all on the court together. Not surprisingly, this is when the Jayhawks began their 18-4 run to take a 7-point halftime lead.

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The Vols had built their lead with Azubuike on the bench in foul trouble and the brief time Dotson was getting a breather. Given how poorly Triple J was playing, Barnes should’ve put Bowden back in the game.

Was hoping to see Uros Plavsic get more run against Azubuike, but he had no chance defensively when he was in there. Coaches playing Nkamhoua over Uros at the five in that game was very telling as to where they think the 7-footer is.

Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry isn’t Azubuike, especially defensively, but he’s the best true center in the SEC and a double-double nearly every game. He’ll be a matchup problem vs the Vols next Saturday.

Going forward All in all, Saturday was very encouraging for this season’s postseason hopes. The path is very narrow and Tennessee must pull an upset or two and avoid any bad losses, but the team that played at Kansas looked like an NCAA Tournament squad.

The Vols currently sit at 12-7 (4-2 SEC) with a loaded back half of the conference schedule awaiting.

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I think Tennessee needs 20 wins (counting the SEC Tournament) to make the Big Dance. They might sneak in with 19 wins because of Barnes’ pedigree and how the committee views a team that is essentially brand new from January on.

Texas A&M on Tuesday night is a must-win and the Vandy game in mid-February is a sure-win. That’s six league wins.

The five games in-between those two are at Mississippi State, at Alabama, vs Kentucky, vs Arkansas and at South Carolina. If Tennessee can go 3-2 over that stretch, they’d be 17-9 (9-4 SEC) heading into the final five games, all of which the Vols will likely be underdogs in. I can’t expect this team to win at Auburn, Arkansas or Kentucky, so getting to 19 wins would require home victories over Florida and Auburn.

Doing that and winning a game in the SEC Tournament should be enough to make the field of 68.

Of course, I’d trade a tourney appearance for an NIT home game if it meant the Vols win on February 8. But that’s just me.

Thanks for reading!

Matt Dixon (@MattDixon3)'

Matt ... Tennessee really had me believing Saturday in them for the rest of the season. That we're talking about the path to the NCAA Tournament at the end of January with this basketball team speaks to the wonderful coaching job that Tennessee's coaching staff has done since December. That Vescovi showed up hasn't exactly hurt the cause. I still don't know if I'm all in on the idea of this team scratching their way to the NCAA Tournament but Saturday was amazing. If Triple J gives Tennessee a little bit on offense, the Vols just may have stolen one. Rick Barnes loves these regular season intersectional games versus the top teams in that sport. This is undeniable. Now it's back to the grind in the SEC against a schedule that's about to get much tougher.

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@CherokeeChirp #Vols: Get to know this on Twitter. Send your pictures of you and your friends enjoying either White Claw Hard Seltzer or Coors Light during Tennessee games to @CherokeeChirp with #Vols. Get your photos in! You need to win.

Hatfield's Nine
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The hype frenzy that is Super Bowl Week has arrived once again. Another wild weekend of college basketball is also just behind us.

1. Tennessee went into Allen Fieldhouse and battled 3rd ranked Kansas down to the final minute. While this edition of the Volunteers has obvious flaws, the progress they are making is undeniable.

2. The death of Kobe Bryant is a body blow to the basketball community. I don't want to be philosophical and maudlin, but tell the people who matter to you how much you care while you still have the opportunity.

3. Kentucky survived some, shall we say, interesting officiating down the stretch to escape Lubbock with a win. Texas Tech could really stand to add some quality wins to their resume.

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4. A split in the Big 12/SEC Challenge is about the result we should have expected, given the matchups. It will be interesting to see which conference has more success come March.

5. Baylor continues to methodically pile up victories. I just can't shake the feeling that the Bears lack the top end talent that almost always rises to the top once NCAA Tournament play begins.

6. Mike Brey did a fantastic job defending his team after a controversial loss at Florida State. Sometimes, a coach has to bite the bullet and face the wrath of the league office to protect his players.

7. Arizona kicked away a 22 point first half lead in losing at Arizona State. That is the kind of loss that can have a lingering effect if a team doesn't immediately move on to the next game mentally.

8. Indiana let a golden opportunity slip away from them by blowing a six point lead in the last 90 seconds at Assembly Hall against Maryland. Conversely, the Terrapins get a huge boost going into a difficult stretch in their schedule.

9. Catholic should be proud of the fight they put up against the powerhouse squad IMG Academy has assembled. There were future Division I stars in both uniforms.

Grace Rehabilitation Center in LaFollette is East Tennessee's premier provider of occupational, speech, and physical therapy. Call 423-566-2250 or go to for information on available programs.

Boys 2 Men Along With Alicia Keys: Were next level singing for Kobe Bryant last night at the Grammy Awards in the same building Kobe Bryant electrified with his God-Given gifts. There's something jarring about the sudden death of famous people. There's something haunting about the famous dying inside a helicopter. Music fans know that both Stevie Ray Vaughn and Bill Graham died in a helicopter crashes. I remember where I was when the SRV news broke. Sports and music are passions. The loss is always devastating when it comes this suddenly and in this way. Life is precious. May Kobe Bryant RIP.

12 Days From Tomorrow Til The XFL Kicks Off: Just sayin.

Posted: Mon, Jan 27th, 1:21 PM
by Beano
For the Good of the Game
Posted: Thu, Jan 23rd, 6:37 PM
by Alison
Tomorrow at Maggie Nathan on her trip to Kansas plus Brian Hartman goes inside the #'s on Tennessee's schedule.



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