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How Much Does Rick Barnes Need To Prove After A Disappointing Year?

Jan 16, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Rick Barnes speaks to his team during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Barnes

Following a less than stellar month of February, the Rick Barnes and the Vols picked up a much-needed win against a depleted Florida team. With the win, Tennessee was able to secure a double-bye in the SEC Tournament. While securing the double-bye is a nice consultation for how the season has gone, Barnes still has a way to go to ensure this season doesn’t wind up a failure. 

During February, the Vols managed to go 4-4 with some pretty brutal losses. The first of which came against Ole Miss. Out of all the games Tennessee lost in February, this one might have been the most frustrating. The Vols held an 11 point lead with a little over 15 minutes left. However, Tennessee only managed to score 12 more points for the rest of the game. This included a 10-minute stretch where they only scored four points. 

At the time, Tennessee was ranked 11th in the country, and many were hopeful that this was just “one of those games.” This couldn’t be any further from the case, though. Tennessee’s offensive woes would only become more problematic as time went on. 

Fast-forward to the end of February, and Tennessee has two additional losses on their record. LSU handled business from tip to finish. Then one of the worst Kentucky teams of our generation blew out Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena. Next, after Tennessee scraped past a Vanderbilt team without their two best players, they faced a similar situation with Auburn missing their best player, as well. This was another situation where Auburn controlled play from start to finish, never letting the Vols make a run. Tennessee got embarrassed again, and Bruce Pearl continued his domination over Rick Barnes. 

Now let’s discuss the Florida game

The Gators controlled the game early, and it looked like another blowout in the making. To many’s surprise, though, Tennessee ultimately took control late in the first half and never looked back. Regardless, this still wasn’t the type of win that instilled a lot of confidence in the fanbase. Once again, Florida was missing their best player, and it took a heroic effort from John Fulkerson, something we haven’t seen much of this year, to lead the Vols to victory.

Look, everyone is rightfully happy Tennessee won and secured the double-bye. This will likely set up a rubber match with Florida in the quarterfinals, too. Be that as it may, after one come-from-behind victory, I am not ready to forgive Barnes for what happened in February just yet. Tennessee had extremely high expectations this year and have failed miserably to live up to them. There is still plenty of basketball left to be played, and a lot can change. That being said, we are all well-aware of Barnes’ track record when it comes to March. 

We will see how things play out in the tournament. Considering the expectations from the beginning of the season, I do not think a sweet sixteen birth is too much to ask for. Anything else at this point is flat-out unacceptable. Understanding how much money Barnes is making, it is safe to assume that Tennessee is not receiving a sufficient return on investment.

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