We spent a lot of quality time discussing the Tennessee Volunteers basketball team on "Press Row" on ESPN 105.1 FM this week. A lot of time.
The Vols have earned it, too. They looked as good as any team in the first two rounds of the tournament, pasting UMass and Mercer. It was impressively impressive and has flipped the script on the narrative that is The Conz.
Cuonzo Martin was in the crosshairs of the fan base, a collection of folks who had tasted extreme and overnight success in six glorious years of Bruce Pearl. In the middle of February, the Vols were teetering on the edge of the Dance, and if they were left out for the third straight time in The Conz's three years, well, who knows what the future would have been. The famous petition that drew more than 30,000 signatures to bring Bruce back to Knoxville became the storm cloud of contention within and surrounding the program.
No one needs to concern themselves with that setting now -- unless, of course, The Conz wins two more games, gets to the Final Four and becomes the hottest name on the coaching carousel. And if The Conz becomes a name to know in the coaching search circuit and is coveted, if he leaves it would be the most ironic thing since Alanis Morissette put her mic down.
And to be fair, the bashes and criticisms from the Vol Nation and their angst about the shuffling performance in the season's first 25 games, well, the poetry of the last 10 games proves that the Vols sorely underachieved through the first two-thirds of the season.
The difference now is success, of course, and it's really that simple. Making baskets makes every coach better. Period.
But these Vols are making more baskets because the offense starts on the inside and works out. Jarnell Stokes has become a force and the offensive starting point.
Also, Josh Richardson has become the single biggest individual difference between the shuffling Vols and the surging. He already was a lock-down defender, but he's made 20 of his last 28 shots and in a variety of ways. The third option that was supposed to be Jeronne Maymon has become Richardson. That's not a knock on Maymon: He is battling on creaky knees, and there is obviously very little depth behind him.
Richardson also has benefited from the inside-out approach the team has adopted in the last 10 games. Good times, indeed.
So here we are, admiring the run the Vols have made. How far can it go? Several folks on the radio show say they believe the Vols have a "good" shot to win the whole thing.
Being in the Sweet 16 certainly means UT has a better shot than most of the college basketball realm, because they are still alive.
But a "good" shot to cut down the nets in Dallas? That seems like a stretch to us, but this time six weeks ago, UT simply getting into the tournament seemed like a stretch for almost everyone.
Here are the Vegas odds for the final 16 to win the title. Just passing it along.
• Florida 7/2
• Louisville 7/2
• Arizona 9/2
• Michigan State 9/2
• Virginia 10/1
• Wisconsin 16/1
• Michigan 16/1
• Kentucky 20/1
• Baylor 20/1
• Iowa State 25/1
• UCLA 25/1
• UConn 28/1
• Tennessee 30/1
• San Diego State 38/1
• Stanford 65/1
• Dayton 85/1
RESEEDING THE SWEET 16
What if they reshuffled the seeds after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament and reworked the bracket? It would never happen, because without the bracket, no matter how much drama there is, March Madness becomes March Slightly Irritated. That said, here's a look at a possible reseeding that couples the regular season and the tournament into the equation:
The NFL has a pseudo reseeding model -- with teams that receive byes getting the lowest seeds. Maybe that's comparing apples and pineapples, but it is interesting.
If we reseeded this bracket, it likely would go (combination of regular-season and tournament games factored in):
• 1. Florida
• 2. Arizona
• 3. Virginia
• 4. Louisville
• 5. Michigan State
• 6. Baylor
• 7. Kentucky
• 8. Michigan
• 9. Tennessee
• 10. Wisconsin
• 11. San Diego State
• 12. UCLA
• 13. UConn
• 14. Iowa State
• 15. Stanford
• 16. Dayton
THREE PLAYERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD OF WHO COULD REWRITE THE BRACKET
Kyle Anderson, UCLA -- Anderson is a large playmaker -- he's 6-foot-9 -- and is a matchup nightmare for any guard on the planet. How Florida plans to defend the player who torched Arizona in the Pac-12 final will be intersting. The Gators are great defensively as a team, but Anderson is tough to stop.
Shabazz Napier, UConn --Is this Kemba Walker 2.0? A high-scoring point guard who lifts the Huskies much higher than their mid-level seed? Napier is shooting better than 40 percent from 3 and scoring right at 18 per game.
Brady Haslip, Baylor -- The Bears have balance and multiple options that make their brand fun to watch, the uniforms nothwithstanding. Haslip is a sharp-shooting 3-point specialist who shot better than 47 percent entering the Dance.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...