Tennessee Basketball: Vols Hit a Brick Wall

Joel BarkerSenior Writer IJanuary 27, 2010

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 20:  Head coach Bruce Pearl of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts from the sidelines during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2009 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The ride was fun while it lasted.

Five improbable wins in a row against two ranked opponents, one of which was No. 1, and three other quality teams had the Vols basketball team riding high.

Two straight lopsided losses, however, have brought the team crashing back to earth.

Granted many of us saw the Georgia loss coming from a mile away. It was unsurprising because the Bulldogs played great against Kentucky and Mississippi State on the road, but still the team could only manage an 8-8 record before thumping the Vols for their ninth win.

Then the redhot Vanderbilt Commodores won in Knoxville for the first time in nearly five years. Sure, it was the 'Dores 10th straight win this season, and it came against a tired Vols team, but it still happened.

Bruce Pearl welcomed two of the three suspended players back to the team against Alabama. Although Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins have played only sparingly since their return, considering the tired, beatdown state of the Vols basketball team right now, their minutes will definitely increase soon.

Of course the injury to senior leader and otherwise heart-and-soul of the team, Wayne Chism, against Georgia came at a most inopportune time. He was clearly not himself in the loss against Vanderbilt immediately following the Georgia debacle.

If there's one thing we know about these Vols, it's that without Wayne Chism at his best, it's incredibly hard to win games, but thankfully my personal whipping post, Scotty Hopson, has been stellar for the most part recently.

However, with a quarter of the team suspended and half of the remaining players experiencing fatigue from that infamous letdown syndrome that inevitibly follows teams who play way over their heads for short periods of time, reality has begun to smack the Vols in their collective faces.  

Did we really believe this Tennessee team could withstand all that adversity and make it to postseason with only two or three losses?

Judging from the many reactions that I have seen and heard in the last few days, many of us did think this magic carpet ride would continue well into February and March.

Not so, my friends.

If there's any consolation, it's that Bruce Pearl will not allow this streak to continue for much longer. He's a master motivator, and the Vols will experience some success again this season.

We all know the ability is there. It's just a matter of getting a second wind and more contribution from guys like Tatum, Renaldo Woolridge, and freshman Kenny Hall.

It is not time to panic yet. There's still time to break through this brick wall.

With games against Florida, at LSU, at Vanderbilt, and at Kentucky, however, the time to crush that wall is right now!