Red Hot Vols
By: John G
Red Hot Vols
The Tennessee Volunteers are the hottest team in college basketball right now, and frankly it’s not even close. They have won 12 of their last 13 and are playing their best basketball at the right time. Many Tennessee fans such as myself questioned how far Rick Barnes and this team could go in the tournament back in late December and early January. Barnes made a lot of questionable decisions with the rotations early in the year that made me scratch my head. For most of the year I said to myself that I would be satisfied with winning a game or two in the tournament, but those expectations quickly changed. Anything short of a sweet 16 or elite 8 for this team would be a failure.
Most of the Vols’ success this season has been attributed to their stellar guard play. One point I will give Rick Barnes credit to is the three guard lineup. The last two seasons we have seen this Tennessee offense stall out for large portions of games. When Tennessee rolls out the three guard lineup of Kennedy Chandler, Zakai Ziegler, and Santiago Vescovi, that is when their offense is at its best. The emergence of freshmen guard, and fan favorite, Zakai Ziegler has been a huge part of the Vols success this season. Kennedy Chandler had a little bit of a shaky start to the season, but Zakai Ziegler came in out of nowhere and played as if he had been here 4 years. The 5”9 guard from New York City has been one of the most reliable and important players for Rick Barnes. This will be the first NCAA tournament for Ziegler and Chandler and much of the Vols success in the tournament will rely on how well these two guards play. Santiago Vescovi, who was first team all SEC, has been the most consistent player for the Vols and I believe he will have a great showing in the tournament as he is one of the best sharpshooters in the country.
College basketball twitter was fuming yesterday overall the Volunteers’ seeding in the tournament. It did not make any sense at all that Kentucky and Auburn were seeded ahead of the vols. Tennessee beat Auburn just a few weeks ago, and beat Kentucky twice, including a win over the Wildcats in the semifinal of the sec tournament. Although Tennessee being a 3 seed is definitely a head scratcher, I cannot complain about the draw they were dealt with. Their first round matchup has them going against the Longwood Lancers out of the Big South. Assuming they handle business there they will face the winner of Michigan and Colorado State, who the Vols should easily beat both of those teams. It seems they will then face Villanova and Arizona in the Sweet 16 and Elite, who the Volunteers have already faced this year. Tennessee is a team that no one wants to face right now, which is why they will make their first ever final four in program history.