Covering basketball at a place like Tennessee is a tricky proposition.
There's no doubt it's relevant. No doubt it's going to be relevant for a long time.
Here we are in early February, however, and the talk is still about Tennessee football.
With today being National Signing Day for college football, that talk will die down somewhat, and the focus will shift to the basketball court for the next two months.
Throughout this time of upheaval and transition for the football team, when the national headlines focused on Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley, and the next five-star recruit, Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has built a team that can compete on the national stage.
And despite what we may see, hear, or talk about with the football program, the basketball program is receiving more support than ever.
Following the biggest snow event in nearly two decades this past weekend, Vols fans braved the conditions in order to support Pearl's team against the Florida Gators.
Before that, Vols fans packed the house for No. 1 Kansas—which, by the way, was a determining factor in upsetting the current top team in all the land.
They filled the place for Ole Miss and Auburn too.
With stellar play from guys who normally would have been role players—Renaldo Woolridge, Josh Bone, Skylar McBee, and freshman sensation Kenny Hall—this brand of Tennessee basketball is quite different from the last few seasons.
Fans have grown accustomed over the years to the fact that this program chokes in big games, but we have witnessed this group of players throughout the season suddenly become a team and subsequently galvanize fan expectations through the roof in spite of two recent lopsided losses.
When a team plays in this capacity, it increases fan appreciation. It increases a fanbase. It forces people who wouldn't normally pay attention to sit up and take notice.
This past weekend, a sellout crowd braved cold and snowy conditions and cheered for a team that was currently on a two-game losing streak by a combined 26 points.
Bruce Pearl has built something here at Tennessee. He's going to continue building it.
Judging by fan reaction and support this season, the phrase, "If you build it, they will come," could not be more true.
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