On Saturday, some 1,000 miles from Knoxville, luck ran devastatingly short for the Tennessee basketball team for what seemed like the billionth time this season.
But it didn't just happen once in the Vols' 68-65 overtime loss to Texas A&M. This wasn't just a smattering of bad luck, coupled with UT shooting itself in the foot.
It was like the basketball gods schemed up the most heartbreaking loss possible and applied it to the most inconvenient game imaginable, just to make certain UT fans knew without a doubt that this season just isn't meant to be.
The Vols, having done much already to lose themselves a must-win game at Texas A&M on Saturday, still had a chance to tie it — or win it — down 59-57 with one possession left. When Josh Richardson couldn't find room, and the ball got forced out to a tightly-covered Antonio Barton as the clock neared zero, UT head coach Cuonzo Martin did what most would have — called a timeout to try and set up another play.
The problem? Barton's errant, fadeaway 3-pointer found the bottom of the net as officials waived off the attempt from the Tennessee bench. The game-winner was wiped out.
As if that wasn't tough enough to swallow, the Vols set up Jarnell Stokes down low, who made an and-one basket at the end of regulation to tie it. They were saved, and all Stokes had to do was hit one free throw that would have sealed the win with 0.8 seconds left.
He didn't. The ball rattled around the rim and fell out, sending the game to overtime.
Of course, this storybook ending would not be complete without a heartbreaking, final-second loss that immediately spurred a string of angry Vol fans on Twitter timelines proclaiming, "Here we go again."
With 2 seconds left in overtime, Texas A&M's Antwan Space drilled another game-winning 3-pointer to win the game and beat the Vols. He repeated a similar shot that gave the Aggies a stunning 57-56 upset over UT in Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 11.
Space has nine 3-pointers on the year. Four have come against the Vols, and two were game-winners against the Vols. He's a nobody who turns into a stone-cold killer whenever a Tennessee loss is feasible with a single shot.
If that isn't bad luck, what on earth is?
Experts agree. College basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy, who creates the wildly popular and unconventional KenPom.com rankings, ranks "luck" as a statistic and has the Vols as a whopping 343rd out of 351 total teams in overall luck.
For reference, he has Tennessee as the 26th-best team in the nation overall — more than 300 spots ahead of their luck rating.
Space created a mirror image of UT's most painful season loss to date, and the déjà vu could not have come at a worse time for the Vols, who need to rack up wins fast.
Martin's timeout was justified — it was an awful look for Barton, and he did successfully get the look he wanted with Stokes.
Stokes' missed free throw can be forgiven — UT missed seven other attempts from the charity stripe in the game.
Fact of the matter is, it's tough to point the finger at anyone for what kept the Vols from winning on Saturday.
The Vols don't just have poor luck to blame. They can't help but rack up 15 or 16 turnovers in crucial games. There's no stability at point guard and few, if any, scoring options off the bench. The ball doesn't consistently get in Stokes' hands.
But the maddening and incomprehensible truth to Tennessee's season is that in so many important games, they're just unlucky.
From at Vanderbilt, to at Missouri, to home against Florida — the list goes on and on — to Space's unlikely duo of heroic moments, the breaks have gone far from UT's way this season down the stretch.
As Martin desperately tries to hold onto a seat that may not be as hot as it seems but is certainly growing in temperature by the loss, garnering an NCAA Tournament bid is crucial. His squads just missed out on the Big Dance in years one and two, and all indications — inside and outside the program — were that this year would be much, much different.
They were right. It has been different. With four games left in SEC play, the Vols already have as many losses overall and in conference as they had to close out last year's regular season.
One more loss, and this season will indeed be different — not in a good way.
Of course, luck isn't the only thing deciding the Vols' fate this season. Failing to make plays in crunch time could have dispelled a lot of this talk. Shoring up season-long problems also could have kept some of those games from being close down the stretch.
But it's impossible to ignore the way the unlucky breaks have slowly but surely poisoned this team's postseason aspirations.
With such few games left on the schedule, the basketball gods may have to wait until next season to reward Tennessee for their troubles — or maybe just save some of it for football.
Steven Cook is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.