All week long, everyone has asked me what I thought about the game. You
know, the Carolina game.
My response: It was a good game.
That's right folks, it was a good game. See, my Spring Break was spent in
Birmingham, Ala., and Austin, Texas, watching basketball and following the
In Birmingham, I watched Stanford, South Carolina State, Connecticut, Utah
State, North Carolina, Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette for the first time
in my life. It was thrilling.
However, I saw another team play for the first time this year: the
Tennessee Volunteers. In Tennessee's first round game against Lafayette, I
saw a team that was 12 points behind. I saw that same team keep its poise,
pull together, and come back to win the game.
It was the first time that I had seen the Vols play that way. They totally
blocked everything out and concentrated on beating the Ragin' Cajuns. And
Two days after that, I saw that same team beat the defending national
champions by 14 points. The Huskies were without their leader, Khalid
El-Amin, but that's not the point. They're a great team, with or without
Now, back to the question that I've heard all week. I think that the Vols
played a tremendous game.
Go ahead and laugh or call me crazy. That's fine.
I think that the Vols outplayed the Tar Heels. North Carolina opened the
game with a large lead on the Vols. It didn't take long for Tennessee to
come back and go ahead by as many as nine points.
The Vols were in control through the whole game until the 4:00 mark where
Tennessee was simply worn down. They are used to playing with an 11-man
rotation but were somewhat limited to eight due to injury and matching up
I think that the Vols dominated in the high-profile matchup of post
players. Black got the better of the 7-0 Haywood in the paint. Black posted
17 points while making nice moves in the paint. On the other side, Haywood
netted 11 points and fouled out with 8:03 to play.
Did the better team win the game? No.
My point is that Tennessee had a great season, but everyone is hanging
their heads because they lost. Guess what? Every team in the tournament
ends its season with a loss except one.
The fact is that this was the best basketball team that has ever been at
the University of Tennessee. It shattered the old school record of wins
(22) with a 26-7 mark. They made it deeper into the tournament than any
other Tennessee team.
Everyone has to remember that just four years ago, the Vols were struggling
for 11 wins. I agree with coach Jerry Green: this is Titletown, USA.
Anything less than a title is frowned upon.
Enough of my preaching. Now to the fun stuff. I have to give props to some
special people who I encountered on my interesting trips.
First and foremost, I have to give a big thank you to the Athletic
Department for allowing me to go on the trips. Especially the plane ride to
Austin. And I have to give an extra thank you to Bud Ford for making sure I
could get where I needed to be.
I also want to thank Colonel Moeller for eating lunch with me at the
Doubletree Cafe. It's boring to eat alone. I have to give shouts to Adam,
Travis, and certain staff members that I won't mention. That could be a
whole commentary itself.
Another thing I have to do is keep a promise that I made. On the bus ride
before we flew back to Knoxville, I promised a member of the official party
that I would let everyone know how proud they were of the team. This was
the morning after the loss. They didn't hang their heads, they signed a
thank-you card to give to the team.
Finally, I have to give props to Elizabeth, the photographer, for driving
in Birmingham and for keeping me calm during my first plane ride. She has
just as many, if not more, interesting stories as I do.
Perhaps I lost a little something on the two trips. I think I may have lost
a little of my objectivity. My blood turned a tint of orange over Spring
Vols played better than people think
Published: Wed Mar 29, 2000 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 02:11 p.m.