KNOXVILLE — Even in a season that could be labeled a disappointment, the University of Tennessee’s men’s basketball team made the NCAA tournament.
In this file photo Arkansas forward Michael Sanchez (31) and Tennessee forward John Fields (25) battle for control of a loose ball as Arkansas forward Delvon Johnson (21) looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Beth Hall)
For Volunteers’ coach Bruce Pearl, that’s reason for excitement.
“I believe if your team makes the NCAA tournament, regardless of the ups and downs, that team needs to be celebrated,” Pearl said Sunday after UT earned its sixth consecutive trip to the tournament for the first time in school history.
The No. 9-seeded Vols (19-14, 8-8 Southeastern Conference) will play No. 8 Michigan (20-13, 9-9 Big Ten) on Friday in the West Regional at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C. The winner likely would face top-seeded Duke on Sunday.
After winning their first seven games and moving into the top 10 in the national polls, the Vols struggled and lost eight home games and seven times in SEC play by six points or less.
“This is probably the best we’ve felt besides being ranked No. 7,” senior center Brian Williams said. “For all the ups and down we had this season, this is probably one of the ups right now. We’re excited about our opponent, and we’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...