Filed by Gentry Estes
GREENSBORO, N.C. The spotlight is much different here. So are the security, stakes, atmosphere and level of competition.
The NCAA tournament is the big leagues of collegiate athletics. At Greensboro Coliseum, that means an on-site players lounge with couches and two flat-screen televisions equipped with Xbox video game systems.
NBA-style locker room media access is allowed, making a first for most of the schools that get here. There simply isnt the same privacy, which demands the kind of focus typically out of character for young men ages 18-to-22.
As many of the athletes here will attest, its the most fun you may ever have in your basketball career if youre winning. A loss ends your season and months spent building to one critical point.
But thats why March Madness is special. And as of a chilly Thursday evening in central North Carolina, the pride of Tennessee is somehow still soaking in it.
The first step was the hardest.
Eyes were wide, making a far too nervous introduction for each of the Volunteers except UCLA transfer Andre Patterson. Despite not playing well for much of Thursdays game, second-seeded Tennessee survived and gets two more days at the playpen that is the NCAA tournament.
Enjoy it, fellas, because you never know when itll happen again.