The Tennessee Volunteers are considered by most brackets to be solidly in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at around a 10th seed, despite an up and down season. However, they fell to the Vanderbilt Commodores in a potentially tournament-costing game.
Vanderbilt dominated in the first half and rode their opening half performance in order to hold off Tennessee, 64-60. Jarnell Stokes’ double-double was marred by his inability to hit free throws down the stretch, and Jordan McRae’s 16 point game was marred by his inability to defend the three on defense. Tennessee has now lost five games that they should have won, had they been focused.
The loss to the Commodores was just Cuonzo Martin’s fourth ever loss in the month of February since becoming the head coach of the Vols, and could be the most damaging loss of the season if his team misses out on March Madness once again. I’m not on the “let’s fire coach Martin” train like some Volunteers’ fans are, but he’s not helping his case for an extension by losing to a hated rival like Vanderbilt.
Tennessee has the talent to be at least a Sweet Sixteen team in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The fact that they’re losing to teams like Vanderbilt, no matter how fantastic of a job Kevin Stallings has done this season, is unacceptable with players like Stokes and McRae on the team. The Vols have to kick things into gear or risk missing out on the Big Dance once again.
As negative as a loss to Vanderbilt seems like it should be, Tennessee fans shouldn’t be too worried. The Commodores have an RPI of 71, which means that the loss will not knock the Vols’ RPI down too much and leave them solidly in the tournament. With nine games remaining, Tennessee has to win at least six games, or once again their season could come down to a decision by the selection committee.