If you build it, they will come in ...
It is as deep as a philosophy professor. It is filled with surprise talent and noticeable improvement from last season.
But it hasn't done anything yet.
The Tennessee men's basketball program has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament in each of Buzz Peterson's first three seasons as coach. Each of his teams have been so close at times.
However, seemingly every time the Volunteers have been minutes away from pulling off a huge upset over Kentucky, or every time they have been a game or two away from wrapping up a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the same thing happens.
The Vols tense up, lose focus and die.
But the positive is that they're close. So, the question is simple.
Where can UT find those extra points to push them over the Kentuckys and Floridas of the college basketball world?
Well, some could come from a improved starting lineup that includes UCLA transfer Andre Patterson. In his sophomore campaign for the Bruins, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound junior forward averaged 7.5 points-per-game - including a 0.519 mark from the field - and grabbed 5.5 rebounds-per-game.
So, what about defense?
Well, giving up 89 points to Division II Tusculum College in the opening exhibition game probably wasn't a good sign.
Too often the Vols rely on sophomore Dane Bradshaw's spark off the bench to get them motivated on the defensive end.
In order to build a Big Dance-worthy season, though, Tennessee must capitalize on its strength...
And with a few surprises off the bench in the preseason, that positive aspect of this year's team has only gotten stronger.
Freshman JaJuan Smith - who has a provisional scholarship for this season - was not one of Peterson's first options off the bench in UT's 95-59 final exhibition win against Carson-Newman last Saturday. Smith used his opportunity, though, to impress his coach and teammates with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including 3-of-3 from behind the three-point arc.
His and others' scoring should prove valuable when the Vols are trying to hang on to a lead in the waning moments of a game - something they've struggled with in the past.
But the past is the past.
And the future remains uncertain. However, if Peterson can guide his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his tenure, future success could become more set in stone.
Top-rated recruits - possibly even a few McDonald's All-Americans - will come to Tennessee.
And once Peterson proves he can guide a team to an NCAA Tournament - giving the program at least a visible chance to compete for a national title - then football-and-championship-loving Vol fans will flock to Thompson-Boling Arena to see them.
- Matt Giles is the sports editor of The Daily Beacon and a senior in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tourney trip could bring Vols back to prominence
Published: Fri Nov 19, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 06:36 p.m.