Posts Tagged ‘Bruce and the Barbarians’
Footage from the Tennessee vs. Gonzaga Basketball game on 1/7/09.The video is even better in HD, which you can view by following the link above.
Oh, they may look harmless, but you have to be careful…[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="243" caption="Beware!!!"][/caption]
Yes friends and neighbors, tonight the Kentucky Wildcats (NR), come into the Tommy Bowl to take on the Tennessee Volunteers (15 AP / 24 USA Today) in what is sure to be another serious challenge for Bruce and the Barbarians.
Like the BasketVols, Kentucky has struggled with inconsistency since the start of the season. Though the Wildcats are currently 12-4 on the season (1-0 SEC), two of their losses were against far-from-impressive teams: VMI and Miami. That said, the boys in blue have appeared to rally lately, barely losing to Louisville and defeating Vanderbilt in a 70-60 win last Saturday. Given the heat that Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie has felt since the start of last season, a win tonight is a must for the Cats.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Billy Clyde Gillispie in all his Glory!"][/caption]
The Vols, on the other hand, are struggling to reign in their defensive woes (currently 298th … that’s right 298th in scoring defense) and find some offensive consistency (shooting an average of 45.5 from the field and 30.8 from behind the 3-point arc). Kentucky, however, has always been Tennessee’s biggest rival in basketball, and the Vols should have no problems getting up for all that the Wildcats have to dish-out. My question from yesterday, however, stands: will Tennessee’s desire, hustle, and tenacity be enough to win the day?
Well, one way or the other, we’ll find out tonight at 9:00.
The game will air tonight on ESPN and ESPN360.com (where available). As always, the game will also be broadcast by the Vol Network through its broadcast affiliate stations, as well as via the live internet stream available through UT Sports.com, and via the XM Satellite Radio Channels 199 (Tennessee) and 200 (Kentucky).
Barring incident and time permitting, I will be joining in the Live Game Thread over at Rocky Top Talk, where everyone is always welcome to join in and either celebrate or commiserate throughout the game.
Go Vols, Beat the Wildcats!
Image Courtesy of: Smash South Sports / HeyBC
Despite falling behind by 10 points with just over 12 minutes to play in the second half, the Tennessee Volunteers managed their ninth consecutive victory over the Georgia Bulldogs this past Saturday, 86-77. With this win, the BasketVols improve to 10-4 overall, and kicked-off conference play with a win.
But was it enough?
By most measuring sticks, Georgia is either the worst or second-worst team in the SEC—unquestionably the worst team in the SEC East. Despite their weakness as a team, the Dawgs gave Tennessee all they could handle. In a game which—on paper—should have been a rout, Bruce and the Barbarians found themselves behind with only minutes to play. To their credit, the Big Orange refused to go down and played with tenacity down the stretch—perhaps spurred on by Bruce Pearl losing his suit jacket in the second-half as the Vols continued to flounder. Whatever gave them the edge, credit their hustle and effort in helping to secure the victory.
Many have recently opined that this team is simply not as good as the 2007-08 squad. I would not necessarily disagree with this estimation, but would add the qualifier “at this point.” I add this slight caveat because I am still not entirely convinced that—at least from a talent perspective—this team is not in the same class as last year’s squad individually. Of course, their play so far really does call that into question.
This team just seems to have a hard time playing together—especially in tight spots. By all appearances, this inability to gel as a team does not owe to ego, a lack of cooperation, or a lack of effort. To the contrary, with a few small exceptions, this team clearly wants and tries to play together as one unit. For some reason, however, it just does not seem to click.
At times, some of this confusion seems to arise from the annoyingly “inconsistent inconsistencies”—one night it’s defense, the next transition, and the next free throws. Each game seems to feature the debut of yet another weakness, along with the departure of an already established one. It is the proverbial “one step forward, two steps back,” type of situation.
In other words, the ball keeps moving…
This every changing cycle of strength and collapse exacerbates the team cohesiveness problems. To some extent, this is understandable—especially for the coaching staff as they try to fix what is not working. Furthermore, if the teammate you count on to be a clutch free throw shooter suddenly goes 2-22 from the charity stripe, well that’s going to have a negative impact on both chemistry and confidence for the team as a whole.
In some ways, these changing problems which (in most cases can be fixed) are worse than consistently un-fixable ones. If you know as a team that no one can hit a 3-point shot to save their life, then you can adjust by simply working that much harder to push the ball inside for the sure-thing 2 points. When the problem seems to change every game, however, things get much more challenging since you simply cannot be sure where the obstacles will arise.
In the end, it seems likely that—for the time being—there are going to be very few “easy” wins for this team. That said, I do have faith in this team—and more importantly this staff—and believe that they will find a way to get things running on all cylinders. I just do not know when.
It didn’t hurt that Tyler Smith—who was not even expected to play against the Dawgs—took it upon himself to drag the BasketVols to victory with his 24 points (13 in the second half) and 11 rebounds. All of this after he was on crutches on Friday afternoon. So far this season, the Vols have had a real habit of relying on a single leader to pull them through games. While that isn’t how it should work, for now it is working.
And a win, after all, is still a win…[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Smith Grabs Rebound vs Georgia"][/caption]
With the Kentucky Wildcats coming into the Tommy Bowl on Tuesday night, the Vols are going to have to find a a way to rise to the challenge, not as a collection of talented individuals, fraught with intermittent failures, and teetering on the edge of disaster. The Vols are going to have to find a way to rise together, and meet the Wildcats as a team. The Wildcats are sure to put the Vols to the the test.
Prior to the Georgia game, Cameron Tatum was quoted as saying: "This is our season now. This is what we've been working for."
Hopefully, he is right.
Image Courtesy of: KNS / AP / John Curry
Well, I am—quite obviously—running behind. I have yet to get my thoughts together on the BCS Championship Game—which President-elect Obama still thinks needs to be sacked in favor of a playoff—and the conclusion of the 2008-09 football season.
I’m going to blame it on the uncontrollable projectile vomiting that accompanied the realization that the Florida Gators had been crowned national champions…
I know, I know, I am supposed to pull for the SEC, and as a general rule I always do. Had the Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, or any other member of the SEC won, then I would be overflowing with my congratulations to the team in representing the conference on the most visible stage in the country. There’s only one problem with this general rule of mine, it has one exception:
I have never and will never pull for the Florida Gators in any sporting event. No way, no how, no sir.
Without re-hashing what I have already said, I hate to lose to many of the SEC schools (most notably Alabama) but I don’t “hate” those schools. With Florida it is different. I realize this will label me as a sour-grapes sort of poor sport who blames Tennessee’s poor performance this year on every one but the Vols. It is petty, it is juvenile, it is silly.
Frankly, I don’t care…
Furthermore, had the thousands of classless thugs folks that I had to deal with during my three trips to Gainesville for games shown a little more class, then this wouldn’t be the case. Of course I doubt the Gators care what I think either. Thus, I’ll congratulate the LSU Tigers for a nice win against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Georgia Bulldogs for their besting of the Michigan State Spartans, the Ole Miss Rebels for up-ending the Texas Tech Red Raiders, The Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats for managing to win their bowl game when few gave them much of a chance. To all of you, congratulations. As for Alabama, well, thank you for representing the conference in the BCS, despite losing to a tough Utah Utes squad. The Utes are a solid team and there is no shame in the loss.
Florida, however, can suck it…
Alrighty, I suppose that’s enough venom for the moment. Then again, maybe not.
"You'd have to be out of your friggin' mind not to want to play for the Gators," • Urban Meyer commenting after the Gators victory over the Oklahoma Sooners
• Via Go Vols Xtra: Meyer sees no end to Florida’s reign
Nice to see that Meyer isn’t smug about it all.
Fortunately, Lane Kiffin doesn’t seem to be the type of guy who really cares about impressions and opinions. He spent his week giving the current members of Vols football squad the proverbial “Come to Jesus” experience as he has made it clear that he expects a lot from his players not just on the field, but in the classroom as well. He drove this point home by showing up unannounced in a few classrooms around the Hill and by dismissing Darius Meyers and giving Brent Vinson one chance to straighten-up. Other sources indicate that, in addition to these “visible” actions by the Blackjack General, there have been other disciplinary actions taken to shore-up various shortcomings by players. Both Ramone Johnson and Demetrius Morely have also been mentioned as having been “encouraged” to find more focus. I have a feeling that there will be more heard on this subject in the coming months leading up to the Orange and White game this spring.
All of this is fine by me. Sometimes you have to do a little housekeeping when you are trying to make changes.
Speaking of changes, Mike Griffith posted a particularly interesting piece on the perceptions of various members of the national sports media on Kiffin’s selection as the new head coach at Tennessee. The general consensus is that no one really knows how things will turn out.I found the response of ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski to be particularly insightful:
"I don't know what to think. I know he's hiring a great NFL staff - his dad from Tampa and Orgeron from the Saints. He's going into one of the most impatient places there is. The whole thing is a chemistry experiment to me. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out. It's one of the few hires where most people don't have a feel for how it will work out. It's one of the greatest calculated gambles I've seen in a while. If it works, Mike Hamilton looks like a genius. If it doesn't, they fired a pretty good coach.''
• Via Go Vols Xtra: National Media sounds off on Kiffin hire
Personally, I find the reactions in Griffith’s piece refreshing for two reasons. First, it is nice for once to hear the media talking-heads admit that they don’t know everything about everything—I guess they all forgot to pay the bill on their crystal balls due to the economic downturn. Second, and most importantly, I like the fact that Kiffin represents a paradigm shift for Tennessee. When given a choice between a hamburger or pizza, Smiling Mike appears to have chosen the Billy Barou (Nachos) with extra queso and hot sauce.
Thus far, when it comes to staff selections, Kiffin has been keeping up his end of the bargain.
As a result, the Vols are seeing a serious up-swing in their recruiting fortunes as National Signing Day approaches. According to Scout.com’s Jeffrey Stewart*, it appears he has the right people out in the field knocking on doors—giving Tennessee a chance at a fabulous finish which seemed unlikely not long ago. At present the Vols have 17 commitments, but the No. 4 wide receiver, No. 4 running back, No. 4 tight end and No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation are all making visits in the coming days. At worst, it’s now looking like a top 20 class. Basilio has a nice breakdown (courtesy of “X”) for those interested.
Oh, and despite the fact that Mike Hamilton’s little chemistry experiment is not a cheap one, UT announced that ticket prices will not be going up in Neyland Stadium this fall.
Note to self “Butts in the seats = Good”[caption id="" align="alignright" width="91" caption="Fulmer in the ACC?"][/caption]
Meanwhile, rumors are flying all over the place about the possibility of the Great Punkin being considered for the head coaching job at Boston College, after coach Jeff Jagodzinski was fired on Wednesday for interviewing with the New York Jets. Fulmer has been a good friend of Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo from their time together as grad assistants on the Tennessee staff in the early 1970’s. DeFilippo was instrumental in Fulmer’s decision to hire Dave Clawson prior to the 2008 season:
Ultimately, Fulmer settled on Clawson, who had interviewed the year before for the Boston College head coaching job. BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo was a graduate assistant at Tennessee in the early 1970s when Fulmer was getting his coaching start, and the two have continued to talk over the years.
DeFilippo's endorsement of Clawson carried a lot of weight with Fulmer, who was even more intrigued after he met and talked football with Clawson. A dandy playcaller himself when he performed those duties under John Majors from 1989-92, Fulmer liked the idea of bringing some new blood into the program. And that's not a knock against Cutcliffe, either.
• Via ESPN.com: Clawson, Volunteers planning to beef up running game
Many fans and media observers feel that Fulmer would be near the top of possible candidates outside of the existing Eagles staff members, especially considering the importance of loyalty in the mind of DeFilippo who has no problem following his instincts. There has been no official word at present, but the possibility has begun to gain some traction in the press and the Blogosphere. Whether anything comes of these rumors remains to be seen.
Oh, and the BasketVols lost to Gonzaga in overtime, snapping the Vols’ 37-game winning streak. That pretty much sucked.
Up next, the Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday at noon—likely without Tyler Smith (sigh…). As is my usual practice (and time permitting), I plan on jumping in the game open thread over at Rocky Top Talk—if you haven’t participated in one in the past, they are fun and you should give it a try. Tell Joel I sent you.
I should post more on Bruce and the Barbarians (as well as the fact that Pat Summitt is only five games away from her 1,000th win), but—as I said from the outset—I’m still in catch-up mode. We should be in full basketball mode here at the Gate by sometime next week.
Go Vols, Beat the Bulldogs!
Image Courtesy of: UTSports.com
*Scout.com membership required to access article
Well, Home Sweet Home did such a good job getting all of us into the “New Year” frame of mind, that—as you can see above—Gus went ahead and brought out the Champagne early (may have to hit refresh for header to update). Given the fact that I have been so lazy this last week, it is probably high time for me to get back up and running here at the Gate. Once we ring in 2009, I will be back in full swing.
In the meantime, I offer up a few announcements, observations, and rude remarks to close out 2008.
First, in case you haven’t noticed, I added a page about our “Ushers” (calling me a writer is simply going a bit too far) which finally recognizes and gives HSH his due as a major contributor here at the Gate. Along with that came his new badges, signatures, and other goodies which will hopefully make it more obvious (as if the quality of his writing wasn’t enough to make it clear that it wasn’t yours truly) who is saying what around this joint.
Second, it is nice to hear that Wayne Chism has survived his battle with the Rajin’ Cajuns. The last thing the BasketVols need is the loss of one the most productive players on the squad before facing Kansas. Let’s not do that again…
Meanwhile, the Full Monte is in Knoxville and raring to go. Apparently he has already come to appreciates the fact that Tennessee fans are essentially crazed maniacs, and is cool with that. I’m liking it!
Oh my! Things is a gettin’ excitin’!
But don’t get too excited because, even though it is the new year, it seems like the KPD is out to spoil some of the fun at games next fall. (Nossir, Ossifuhr! I waddn’t drinkin’ ... hic.)
With all of this going on, it looks like 2009 could really be something special. So everyone have a Happy New Year, and be safe.
See you in 2009!
Images Courtesy of: Knoxville Radio History
Due to the fact that I have been so tied up lately with annoyingly distracting things such as trials, work, and earning a living, I forgot to mention one key point that must be remembered about new Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Lane Kiffin: He’s the 21st head coach for the Volunteers…
That’s right, lucky number …
Now I am not by nature a superstitious person … except when it comes to college sports. Yeah, I’m one of those types that has certain routines which cannot be broken without risking disaster. I have, at various times, had lucky shirts, shorts, ticket stubs, socks, and so forth. I could even tell you the win/loss “record” of most of those items. My father had a lucky outfit which he wore to every game from 1994-the early 2000s. In 2005 he retired after he decided the “mojo” was gone. At present, all of my luck, magic, gri-gri, or whatever you call it is focused on my lucky gameday towel, which I keep tucked into my belt at all times on football Saturdays.
Anyway, I just realized that Coach Kiffin—perhaps—has a date with destiny, due to the fact that he is the 21st coach of the Vols, which is a good omen. You see, we here at Gate 21 are sort of partial to the number 21, for reasons which are—I presume—fairly obvious. It is our lucky number. Thus, maybe—just maybe—this is sign from the Fates of Football, a beacon telling all of Orange Nation that Coach Kiffin will usher in a new era of success for the Big Orange unlike any that Tennessee fans have ever known.
Of course it could also mean that—just like Gate 21—he will be a perpetual bore, wasting amazing amounts of time, considerable sums of money, promising much, but delivering little.
Yeah, I’m going with choice number one too…
Either way, this (unbelievably and irrationally razor-thin) connection between Coach Kiffin and the Gate is forever cemented in my mind. Oh yeah, I’m feeling the vibe … Lucky Number 21, our luck-fueled general on the field leading the orange-clad warriors to victory.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel another addition to the Gate 21 Lexicon (uhh … that’s my “list ‘o words”) and another moniker or nickname being bestowed. Now, along with Bruce and the Barbarians, the Great Punkin, Smiling Mike, the Tommy Bowl, the Big Dickey, Bruce Almighty, and other exercises in the creative abuse of the English language, I give you Lucky Number 21:
“The Blackjack General”
I figured that name sums up the role Coach Kiffin has assumed at Tennessee: a gambler at heart, a guy who will face a stacked deck from the start, and a guy who may have to do a little bluffing along the way. It acknowledges his past with the Raiders and Bea Arthur Al Davis (e.g. everything they wear is, uhh… black), while focusing on the next task at hand. It acknowledges that traditions of Tennessee and General Neyland, while making it clear it is a new day. Furthermore, in all those old cowboy movies, the Blackjack dealer always wore a visor. More than anything, it embraces good luck in the form of “21”.
The Blackjack General, Lane Kiffin, Gate 21, and some moron with a blog named “Lawvol”—yeah, I like it. Cause that’s how we roll…
Clearly, I’ve lost my mind. I have really got to stop sleeping next to the microwave…
Here are a few videos from around the web this morning...
First up, the BasketVols advanced to the finals of the Old Spice Classic yesterday, by beating the Georgetown Hoyas 90-78. Here's the highlights courtesy of ESPN.com.
You can get more information on the Vols' win over Georgetown as well as their next game at UTSports.com and from my good friend RBK at the BruceBall Blog.
As Coach Fulmer prepares to coach his last game as Tennessee Volunteers' head football coach, Chris Low of ESPN is reporting that it is all but official that Lane Kiffin will be the next head football coach for the Vols. Here's his report, again, courtesy of ESPN.com.
Not to be outdone, Go Vols Xtra is also reporting that Kiffin will likely be announced as the next head coach at a press conference sometime on Monday.
Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, however, thinks that Smiling Mike is crazy for hiring Kiffin, who Higgins thinks is unqualified to take the reins in Knoxville.
More to come later in the day, on Coach Fulmer's final game today against the Kentucky Wildcats...