The Tennessee Volunteers are considered one of the “last four in” to the 2014 NCAA Tournament due to two losses to the Texas A&M Aggies by near buzzer-beating threes by Antwan Space. In their most recent game against the Aggies, Antonio Barton hit a game-winning three, just for it to be called back because of a timeout by Cuonzo Martin. Instead of a heroic ending by Barton, the Vols lost in overtime and fell towards the edge of the bubble.
Queue the following home game against the Vanderbilt Commodores, and it was clear that Barton carried a chip on his shoulder from that loss. He led Tennessee with 21 points in his best performance of the season, and Jarnell Stokes went for his 17th double-double of the season, as the Vols absolutely hammered the Commodores, 76 – 38.
Oddly reminiscent of the 35 point win over the now No. 1 in the ACC Virginia Cavaliers, Tennessee’s defense dominated all night. When Tennessee plays like they did against both Virginia and Vanderbilt, they look like a team capable of making a run to the Elite Eight.
However, it’s not time to relax for Tennessee. The Volunteers must beat their next opponents, the Auburn Tigers, and then a win against the Missouri Tigers should seal their place in the Big Dance. Remember, the win over Vanderbilt has many more implications than just placing Tennessee one more win closer to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, because it’s also one win closer to making sure that head coach Martin gets to keep his job for another year.