The Baby Vols are electric.
So Tennessee just beat a good Kansas State team at home, racking up their second Top 50 win of the week after having zero in the first 2.5 months. Rick Barnes is doing a fantastic job, but most notable is how enjoyable it is to watch this team play. Tennessee basketball is FINALLY fun again.
They’ve now won three in a row, including a home win against Kentucky. This is despite being the shortest and third-youngest roster in the SEC. They crash the boards with reckless abandon, shoot “no-no-YES” shots half the time, and are hyper-attentive defensively. I don’t find the offensive sets very pleasing, but the Vols get buckets.
This is a bad way of saying that I love this team.
Now, there hasn’t been a Tennessee basketball team worth really loving since the Elite Eight team. Even then, that team took entire games off at a time (the 74-45 SEC Tournament loss to Kentucky comes to mind) and struggled to find consistency prior to the NCAA Tournament. This team barely takes a minute off at any time. They struggle with consistency, sure. Still, the last three games of basketball are the best Tennessee’s put forth in years.
The Vols run out a starting lineup every game with three freshmen and a sophomore, none of whom were blue-chip recruits. The one senior? A bust prior to 2017. And yet…they’re still here. They’re still just 12-9, but the remaining schedule is utterly beautiful. Tennessee will now face a ten game slate with exactly two good teams on it (Kentucky, South Carolina). Win seven of those and the NCAA Tournament is no longer just a hope.
I and many others were upset with Rick Barnes’ recruiting abilities, for what I still think is good reason. Maybe we should let Barnes and this bizarre collection of misfit toys cook. It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had with Tennessee basketball in nearly a decade.