Team of the Week: Tennessee

February 24th, 2008
The team of the week won the game of the week.  The Tennessee Volunteers (25-2, 10-1 SEC) put an end to the Memphis Tigers’ reign atop college basketball with a 66-62 win.


Watching the pre-game speech of Tennessee’s Coach Bruce Pearl, it was clear that it was Tennessee’s game to lose.  It’s always interesting to hear a coach’s pre-game speech; a voyeuristic glimpse behind the scenes for fans.  However, like a Kobe Bryant smile, televised locker-room speeches always come off as inauthentic. 


Built like the guys on “Orange County Choppers” and clad in a garish pair of suspenders, Pearl was a stogie clenched in his teeth away from being a superhero villain.  His speech started off uninspiring as his keys to the game conveniently alliterated with one another, reminding me of the business meetings I day dream my way through on a weekly basis. 


Pearl recovered in the end though, working his team into a frenzy as he declared, “I don’t know if we are the best team in the country, but after tonight we will be the number one team in the country.”


Pearl’s prediction of a win came true; the game was close throughout but Tennessee appeared in control during most of it. 


I had the opportunity to watch the Volunteers in person early this year when they played Gonzaga in Seattle.  I was impressed by their size, speed, and depth, but above all else I was blown away by their physicality.  They toyed with the Zags the whole game.  Whenever the Zags made a run, Tennessee would turn the volume up to 11, and manhandle their way back to a comfortable lead. 


I walked out of that game convinced that Tennessee would make a deep run in March.  However, I never expected that I had just watched a team that would end up ranked number one in the nation. 


After seeing Tennessee in person and watching how calm and collected they stayed at Memphis (by the way, why does anyone care that Pricilla Presley was there?) I am convinced that Bruce Pearl is going to be a legend.  Up until this weekend he was nationally known more for painting his chest and sweating through his suit, but he is quickly becoming one of the best coaches in college basketball.


Honorable Mentions:


Drake (24-3, 14-2 MVC) had the biggest Bracket Buster win, upsetting Butler. 


Indiana (23-4, 12-2) had a big win after a tabloid week.  But writing “KS” on their shoes was bush.  Breaking out the Sharpie to put numbers and letters on your shoes should be reserved for tragedies, not your coach getting fired for cheating.