Cobbservations 003: Tennessee's loss to Alabama one of 18 losses suffered by ranked teams last week

Cobbservations 003: Tennessee's loss to Alabama one of 18 losses suffered by ranked teams last week

What does Tennessee's lopsided loss to the Crimson Tide mean? Plus news and notes on Lady Vols softball and basketball.

February 12th, 2018 by David Cobb in Breaking News

Alabama forward Donta Hall defends against Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Tennessee's 28-point loss at Alabama on Saturday was the the most lopsided defeat for a ranked team last week.

However, it was just one of 18 losses suffered by ranked teams in another wild week of college basketball. Those 18 losses included a combined seven losses by teams in the AP top 10.

There's no way to sugarcoat Tennessee losing 78-50 — Rick Barnes sure didn't try — but the fact is that the loss did not keep Tennessee out of the selection committee's bracket preview.

One prevailing narrative from the lopsided game in Tuscaloosa among analysts is simply that Alabama solidified itself as a postseason threat. The Crimson Tide had already beaten Auburn, Oklahoma and Florida in recent weeks. Knocking off Tennessee just further bolstered the Tide's resume.

ESPN and SEC Network basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes was not on the call for the Tennessee-Alabama game, but he offered a strong take on the type of team the Crimson Tide can be.

"A year ago today, South Carolina was not ranked and went to Final 4," Dykes tweeted on Sunday. "Alabama and Texas A&M could be similar teams this year."

ESPN's Joe Lunardi updated his bracketology on Monday morning with the Vols as a No. 4 seed in the South Regional playing against Vermont in Boise to open the tournament.

Yes, the projection is Tennessee against Vermont in Idaho as part of the "South" regional. The South Regional will be decided the following weekend in Atlanta, which does make sense. Sending teams to Idaho first seems a bit extreme, however.

Softball 6-0

The No. 11 Tennessee softball team went 6-0 in a season-opening event in Arizona, despite missing Brooke Vines, who was second on the team in batting average last season.

Vines, a sophomore, underwent a shoulder procedure in the fall and her return date is uncertain.

Tennessee's undefeated run through the Kajikawa Classic included wins over No. 19 Arizona State and No. 15 Utah. The win over Utah in the final game of the weekend came courtesy of an Abby Lockman walk-off double. Here is the clip of that play:

The Lady Vols play in the Michele Smith Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., this Friday through Sunday.

Read more on the beginning of Tennessee's softball season here.

Kasiyahna Kushkituah

The basketball version of the Lady Vols picked up a fourth straight win with a 62-46 victory over Georgia on Sunday. My game story centered on Mercedes Russell surpassing 1,000 rebounds and nearly surpassing 1,500 points in the game.

Not mentioned in that story was the play of reserve freshman center Kasiyahna Kushkituah. Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said three great recent practices helped the player popularly known as "Kasi" get some playing time in the first half on Sunday. She took advantage with three points and five rebounds in 10 minutes of action. The three points were here first of conference play.

On a day that rightfully brought attention to Russell's storied career, Kushkituah showed that she might be able to help with Tennessee's monumental task of replacing Russell's steady production next season.

"I thought she went in, and she's a strong young lady," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "Her tempo has got to get up; she's got to get in a little bit better shape. But I keep telling her, 'Stay the course. You're playing behind an All-American who can teach you, and you can learn.' And I think she's done just that. We're going to need her...As long as she's sitting and learning and developing her game, she has a great future. She's one of the kids that wants to play the five."

Up next:

It's a busy week on the beat. Barnes is talking basketball on campus at noon today before his squad hosts South Carolina on Tuesday night. The Lady Vols host Alabama on Thursday. Then Tennessee baseball is scheduled to begin the Tony Vitello era on Friday night against Maryland at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The men's basketball team is on the road at Georgia on Saturday. My plan is to make the trip to Athens to cover that game. Hopefully the weather will be nice enough to justify taking a scenic route through the Smokies on the way down.

 We'll have coverage of all those things here and keep you up to date on any late additions to Tennessee's 2018 football signing class.

David Cobb is the Tennessee athletics beat writer for the Times Free Press. He is stationed in Knoxville. Follow him @DavidWCobb on Twitter, or direct your emails to dcobb@timesfreepress.comOh, and go download the Times Free Press mobile app. It's free.