Orlando Fun and Kiffin's the Man
First, and I'm sure I speak for lawvol as well, all of us here at Gate 21 hope you and yours had excellent Thanksgivings yesterday. If you're like me, it may take a day or two to recover from the tryptophan and chocolate pie you ate way too much of. Also, my apologies for going M.I.A. the past week or so since my poor excuse at making you laugh with the Duck, Duck, Goose riddle.
Now, down to business. First, having watched the Tennessee hoops team play the past two days in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando has been great. I love Bruce Pearl, and this team so far has really exceeded my expectations. Two wins on neutral courts over likely NCAA Tournament teams are, well, you just can't say anything bad about them really.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="262" caption="Tennessee came from behind to beat Georgetown 90-78 to advance to the Old Spice Classic title game"][/caption]
Just five games in, I already love this team.
Trailing 63-55 with 10 or so minutes left was the Vols' first real gut-check of the season. With Wayne Chism chilling on the stationary bike and momentum clearly on Georgetown's side, how would Tennessee answer?
First it was the leader, Tyler Smith. He hits some tough shots in traffic in the lane that you just can figure out how he makes them go in. His touch is impeccable. Once Tennessee started getting some stops on the defensive hit, Cam Tatum went bonkers from three, knocking down two from the corner, one from the top of the key (the bank was open), and one from the wing (the dagger), prompting him to high-five Bert Bertelkamp, who undoubtedly yelled (literally, yelled) his favorite line...
As has been the trademark of Bruce Pearl's team, especially the past two seasons, the Vols just wore Georgetown down. Anytime you can hang 90 on the team that led the nation in FG% defense last year with your main big man winning the stationary bike Tour de France, you got something here. The Vols now wait to face the Maryland-Gonzaga winner in Sunday night's championship game. Winning this tournament would be a huge confidence builder for a young Tennessee team.
Secondly, there's something else I heard, something about Lane Kiffin being the next head coach at Tennessee. I won't go into depth as to my reactions to this, as it's not 100% official and I figure I'd wait til after the Kentucky game tomorrow night. I'll defer to the guys over at 3SIB, who did an excellent job on going in-depth on each of the candidates for the job, and their Kiffin profile here.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Welcome aboard Lane Kiffin"][/caption]
Briefly, Kiffin was not my first choice. I had wanted Will Muschamp since last September, when Florida hung 59 on Tennessee and Muschamp's defense at Auburn smacked the Gates in the mouth. Instead, he's the "coach-in-waiting" at Texas, for who knows how long (don't sleep on Auburn coming after him should/when they lose to Alabama tomorrow). My second choice was Butch Davis, but with North Carolina's recent issues he lost a little with me.
I wanted someone young and fresh. I think Kiffin provides that, and his biggest question for me is inexperience. Time will tell who's on his staff and which recruits stay/bail/jump back aboard, but Kiffin may have been the best/most sensible choice.
I trust Mike Hamilton's judgment. Two words as to why: Bruce Pearl.
I'm sure lawvol and I will have plenty more on the new hire, the Kentucky game, and Sunday night's possible hoops championship in the very near future.
Images Courtesy of: Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP (ESPN.com) • Paul Sakuma / AP (Daylife)
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