It doesn’t seem that long ago that Tennessee fans were dreaming about the possibility of a No. 1 seed in March Madness.
After back-to-back road losses, though, it’s time to reevaluate expectations. Going on a 9-1 tear in the middle of season is reason to build up expectations, but losing two of the last three is more than enough reason to reexamine postseason expectations.
As a team, Tennessee was 35 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range, while Georgia was 43 percent from the field and from 3-point range each.
Georgia out-rebounded Tennessee 40 to 33, with Tennessee leading the offensive rebound battle 14-12. Lamonte Turner led Tennessee in points with 14 off the bench, while Kyle Alexander had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Yante Maten led Georgia with 19 points.
Another conference road game Tennessee could have won, another conference road game Tennessee was exposed.
For the longest time, it seemed like Tennessee may be a legitimate one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament. But after losing two of the last three, it seems Tennessee may be destined for a four or a five seed. Given how low expectations were coming into the season, however — that may not be such a bad thing.
The good news for Tennessee going forward is that no one is going to be tougher than them. It seemed Tennessee played press defense all night and while Georgia managed to break it a couple of different times, the Vols still managed to force turnovers, 13 turnovers forced to Georgia’s 11.
Another positive is that Tennessee’s guards also had a good night.
Unfortunately, as is the case after most losses, the bad news outweighs the good, and there was a lot of that on Saturday. The worst news was probably an uncharacteristic off-night for Grant Williams. Williams, who is an all-conference candidate for most, struggled. He went one of eight from the field and only reined in four rebounds. For someone who has keyed the team to many wins so far this season, Williams has to be disappointed in his output.
With Williams struggling, Tennessee was pounded in the paint on defense. It’s already been noted that Georgia was a solid 43 percent from the field, but what’s more impressive is Georgia heading to the free throw line an astounding 38 times, making 27 of its attempts. This may have made the difference in the game.
Finally, if Tennessee is going to make any sort of run in the tournament, it has to find its identity on offense.
At this point, it seems like guard play isn’t going to be the answer, with Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, Turner and James Daniel III all being inconsistent all season. If Williams is going to struggle in the frontcourt going forward, this team will be in trouble.
All things considered though, the Vols aren’t in terrible shape. They’ve all but sealed up a spot in the NCAA Tournament and have done everything right to exceed preseason expectations. Even better, this is still one of the youngest teams in the country, which bodes well for the future of the program.
They’ll just need to start winning on a more consistent basis if any team accolades are going to be claimed going forward.