Cuonzo Martin's late-season win streaks haven't produced NCAA Tournament berths in either of his first two seasons at the helm of Tennessee basketball.

In 2013-14, however, it would be just what the Vols need — given it starts right now.

Martin is used to Vol fans' apathy surrounding the program at this point in the season. Each of his first two SEC conference slates started out with UT losing four of five games.

But it is what has followed that lethargic stretch that transformed the fan base from pensive to passionate. Both of those seasons ended with the Vols winning 10 of their last 13 — and eight of their last nine — SEC games.

Despite what the boo birds say after bad losses, this season wouldn't end with the Vols disappointed on Selection Sunday like the last two have — so long as they can finish this season like the past two.

Disagree? Let's play a little 'compare and contrast.'

Halfway through the season, each of Martin's first two teams were nowhere near tournament contention. The 2011-12 Vols were 9-10 at one point, featuring only wins over mid-major foes before SEC play. They couldn't have been any more of an afterthought in the SEC before that late streak put them right on the outside looking in.

In 2012-13, it wasn't much better. The Vols started off horribly in SEC play and a hot finish wasn't enough to get them on the right side of the bubble.

This season has been a different story. UT has been at the center of SEC relevance right behind Florida and Kentucky and has picked up a pair of solid non-conference wins over Virginia and Xavier.

The Vols have been in ESPN's Bracketology field virtually all season, and despite common perception on Rocky Top, they are currently predicted in as a 10-seed — not a bubble team.

Plus, the SEC has been a steaming bag of mediocrity. At the moment, Missouri and Arkansas look like the only other teams capable of getting anywhere near the bubble. That hasn't been the case in past seasons.

And then there's the strength of schedule. ESPN has Tennessee's schedule ranking 12th in the nation this season, while neither of those first two were able to crack the top 40.

Sure, UT failed to impress in the non-conference slate for the third time in as many years. Countless Vol fans proceeded to fire Martin via Twitter as early as the first game of the season.

Some of them have a point. This team resembles that of a finished product much more than Martin's first two campaigns, and perhaps they should have been able to find more consistency.

It also can't be ignored that the Vols had their chances in those first two seasons. Despite doing as much as they could to close the seasons, both were bounced early in the SEC Tournament.

The Vols' final 13 games in 2013-14 have already begun, starting with the putrid loss at Florida. But two straight impressive wins over Ole Miss and Alabama followed.

If Tennessee goes 8-2 down the stretch and makes it three straight years with that streak, the Vols will finish 22-9 with wins over Virginia — who UT beat by 30 and is now tearing apart the ACC — and Xavier as well as opportunities against Florida and Missouri still left.

That will make the tournament.

To the surprise of many Tennessee basketball fans, the script in 2013-14 thus far has read eerily similar to that of Cuonzo Martin's first two seasons at the helm.

And even though Vol faithful want a much different end result this time around, they should be hoping for the script to stay just as it is.

Steven Cook is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at