Bruce Pearl may not have the most talented group of guys, and this may not have been the dream season which has give past teams ultimate confidence heading into March.
However, these levelheaded, clutch performing Volunteers have proven they have what it takes to win when it matters most.
Tennessee has a well rounded group of upperclassmen. Just five of their fourteen players are either Freshmen or Sophomores. They have a lot of depth and do not rely solely one player. In fact no one on their team averages more than 13 a game.
The Vols do, however, have six players with at least 7.2 per game. Additionally, they only three players averaging less than 10 minutes per game meaning almost all the players on their team have a decent role in their overall game plan.
The team is led by senior Wayne Chism, who is a multi-tool players who can score, rebound, and pass the basketball. Sophomore Scotty Hopson leads all scorers with 13 points a game.
This team isn't amazing. They average just 66% from the charity stripe, 32.5% from long range, and 45.7 from the field which is 74th in the country. All of those numbers are about average, nothing too special.
They are however a special team. They have some great wins including two wins against the top two teams in the country, Kansas and Kentucky. They also lost to #3 in the country, Purdue by just a single point.
Overall they are 21-7, with a 9-5 conference record. The record isn't all that great, especially in the SEC where the competition isn't as big as the Big East or ACC.
One thing they have been able to do is play consistently. Their only two bad losses of the season came against USC, 77-75, and against Georgia 78-63. Both of those teams have had decent years overall.
The team has been this successful despite some bumps in the road. Four of their players were arrested including senior Tyler Smith, and have been suspended indefinatley. How did the team react? They beat undefeated #1 Kansas by eight points.
Tennessee is currently a projected six seed in the Salt Lake City regional by ESPN bracketologist, Joe Lunardi. However, this will probably change to a four or five seed in tomorrows updated version despite a road loss to Florida earlier in the week. They will probably also move up from their #17 ranking tomorrow to around a number 13 or 14.
In order to solidify their chances as a contender, they will need to win out their schedule against Arkansas and Mississippi St., and get a few wins in the SEC tournament.
This team may not be the best of the best, but they are the type of team that can beat anybody, and in order to win a championship you need to beat some teams that you weren't expected to beat.
Well, Tennessee has proven it can do that. Now, lets see what happens in March.