No matter where you stand on Cuonzo Martin, give the man credit.
He doesn’t quit. And his team doesn’t quit.
The perseverance exhibited by Tennessee’s Vols in their 78-65 overtime victory over Iowa on Wednesday night is a direct reflection on their coach. After a horrible start and some sinking spells in the second half, the Vols refused to go quietly and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
UT now has a second-round matchup with No. 6 seed UMass in the East Regional at Raleigh, N.C., on Friday afternoon. The winner of that game plays again on Sunday, with Duke the likely opponent.
Among the spoils of victory is an upgrade of Martin’s job security. But if he is feeling any pressure, he doesn’t show it.
“I don’t deal with criticism. It’s time and energy wasted,” he said afterward. “… I’m consumed with success.”
By beating Iowa, Martin became just the fourth coach in UT history to win an NCAA Tournament game. Think about it. Only Don DeVoe, Jerry Green and Pearl coached the Vols to victories in the NCAAs prior to Wednesday night.
From The Times Free Press
Tennessee’s players bounded off the floor inside PNC Arena early Thursday like they hadn’t won an emotional, hard-fought basketball game more than 500 miles away less than 24 hours earlier.
Such is the adrenaline of the NCAA tournament.
A little more than 36 hours after landing here after Wednesday night’s overtime win against Iowa in the most-watched “First Four” in the four seasons since the NCAA expanded its tournament field to 68 teams, the 11th-seeded Volunteers are hoping to continue their tournament run against sixth-seeded Massachusetts this afternoon.
“We couldn’t really sleep on the plane,” Tennessee leading scorer Jordan McRae told the Times Free Press after Thursday’s shootaround in Raleigh. “We were all up talking and laughing and stuff. We went to bed around 4 and got in around 3. I got up around 9. I don’t sleep late.
“We’re good, just knowing what’s at stake,” he added. “Everybody was tired, but everybody’s adrenaline is running high.”
The NCAA selection committee has gone away from making the previous 10 games of a team’s season such a huge priority in regard to tournament selection/placement. That used to be something that was consistently brought up as being very important. Now, supposedly, it’s just another factor to consider, but the whole “body of work” thing is bigger.
Still, this season, it seems clear that Tennessee’s No. 1 seed was secured by the Lady Vols winning the SEC tournament. And if you are going to focus on the “last 10,” that stretch looks quite good for the Lady Vols.
Tennessee has won seven in a row and 13 of its last 14. As for their lead-up into the NCAA tournament, the Lady Vols beat regular-season SEC champ South Carolina, and they then won three games at the SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga., for the program’s 17th league tourney title.