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Saturday, March 18, 2006
The Vols’ Dream Season Comes to an End:
80-73 says the scoreboard. The Big Orange was close, but not close enough to a Sweet 16 berth. Now the Talking Heads™ will get to tell us how we didn’t deserve to be where we were, blah, blah, blah…
Did anyone… ANYONE… expect this team after LOSING its top two scorers from a 14-17 campaign to win 22 games, get into the top ten, grab a #2 seed in the Round of 64, and come away with victories over Florida TWICE, Texas on the road, Kentucky at Rupp? Oh, and we won the SEC East. Did you really think that was going to happen?
Yeah. Me neither.
But it did. And this season is the first season I’ve cared about UT basketball since DeVoe was coaching, and we had players named Nix, Roth, and Henry. It’s not that I didn’t SUPPORT the Vols. Between 1987 and 1996, while I still lived in Knoxville, I went to most every home game, but it was tough to watch. VERY tough.
This season brought us hope in the optimism and energy of a new face, Coach Bruce Pearl. Midwesterners said we’d be happy we “brung ‘im here”. I guess they were right.
The 2005-2006 Vols had some fundamental flaws in their game, and lacked depth. But they excelled in other areas, and they had it where it mattered most. Chemistry, and effort. Yes, you have to be able to make a few shots, and the lack of scoring touch became evident down the stretch when it really looked like their legs were gone.
But… so what?
I loved watching this team. I loved listening to the coach. I loved the publicity we got all season. I loved being proud to wear my orange and white during the winter months and not just because of the Lady Vols.
Next season we will be in the preseason NIT, showcasing a wiser group of kids, and integrating perhaps the Vols’ best freshman class since Ernie and Bernie. Will we win 22 again? Will we go deeper in the tournament? I believe so. I believe this basketball team will go as far as chemistry and effort will take them. And with a few more shots falling, and a little luck, maybe we’ll show up in Atlanta for the Final Four, and not just because we happen to have tickets.
It’s good to dream in March, and know you’re not just hallucinating. Heh.
Go Vols, and thanks for a terrific run.
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