The only thing Wayne Chism and the Tennessee Volunteers could do when the buzzer went off was sit… silently.

As Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans celebrated after their 69-70 win against the Tennessee Volunteers, the familiar smell of the final four became more distinct. As for The Volunteers, the ride had come to an end.

Tennessee absolutely played their hearts out. On offense, they had ball movement, great shot selection and amazing execution. On defense, they had countless tipped passes and an impressive number of steals. The entire team really stepped up and showed they wanted to win this game. JP Prince didn’t miss a shot the entire game (including three alley-oop dunks) unless you count the half court buzzer beater at the end of the game. The Vols shot an impressive 7-16 from 3 point land, hitting their first six in a row. Overall the Volunteers played great.

There was just one problem though…

Free throws.

Tennessee shot a miserable 14 of 21 from the free throw line. Call it a personal pet peeve, but I can’t stand a bad free throw percentage. When a team is in the Elite 8, fighting for a national championship, you can’t go 14 for 21 from the free throw line. When you only lose by one point and you know you played great, you look at the numbers and that free throw percentage will give you nightmares.

As for Michigan State? Well honestly, they didn’t shoot that much better from the charity stripe going 16 for 21, but without those two points, Tennessee wins by one. See where I’m going with this?

The Spartans definitely had some impressive moments. They matched Tennessee with nearly every shot. Just when Tennessee thought they had something going, Durrell Summers would score 2 of his 21 points and his Spartan teammates would bounce right back.

They were nearly dead even to the very end…nearly. When the final buzzer sounded, Michigan State was just good enough to edge out the Vols and to go to the Final 4 for the fifth time in ten years and will play Butler for a chance to go back to the National Championship game where they have some unfinished business from last season.

The Tennessee Volunteers played their hearts out against the Ohio State Buckeyes and earned a trip to their first Elite 8 appearance in school history.

Throughout the entire game it was a hard fought battle, but in the end Tennessee wanted it more. All throughout the game Tennessee showed more poise and determination against the Buckeyes. They had more ball movement, more points in the paint, way more rebounds, and more alley-oops from half court and it all equaled up to more points at the end of the game.

Ohio State had three guys go the full 40 minutes of the game, and only used two bench players; three less than the 10 man rotation Bruce Pearl used with his Volunteers team. I was still impressed with how hard the Buckeyes played using so few players. As hard as they played, they just couldn’t get used to the constant rotation Tennessee threw at them.

Every time Ohio State would get a good tempo going on offense or defense, Tennessee would throw a different player into the mix, which gave just enough difference to throw off the Buckeyes game. Even with the rotation headache, Ohio State had a narrow lead for the majority of the game.

Ohio State unleashed their secret weapon in the second half, Evan Turner. One of the players who played the entire game, Turner finished with 31 points and 7 rebounds. All through the second half he seemed unstoppable. It didn’t matter who was guarding him, he always seemed to hit, and every time he did, every Vols fan got a little bit more worried.

Tennessee had a secret weapon of their own though...

Wayne Chism took over for the Vols in the second half finishing with 22 points and 11 boards. Call it superstition, but when Chism took off his headband early in the second half he transformed into a totally different player. Chism took the lead of his team and showed his teammates the way to the Elite 8.

Helping Chism take control of the game were big man Brian Williams and lefty JP Prince. Williams had 12 rebounds combining with Chism for more boards than the entire Buckeyes team. Not to mention he also hit the go ahead basket with 12 seconds to go in the second half. Prince finished with 6 assists and 14 points, including throwing down a dunk from a half court alley-oop that started Tennessee’s momentum boost early in the first half.

So what does all this mean? It means as amazing as Evan Turner is, he couldn’t beat Tennessee by himself, and even though the Buckeyes played great and showed a few scary moments to Tennessee, the Volunteers finished on top and are headed into their first Elite 8 appearance to face the winner of Northern Iowa and Michigan State on Monday.

In the SEC semifinal game I was on the edge of my seat screaming and shouting at the TV as I usually do when I watch any Tennessee basketball game. Tennessee had so many chances, but when it came down to it, they just couldn’t get the job done.

This was an extremely physical game. Every 10 seconds it seemed like a foul was being called on someone, including two technical fouls on both teams and an ejection for UT’s Melvin Goins late in the second half. As hard as Tennessee played, and as bad as they wanted it, Kentucky wanted it more.

Tennessee’s biggest problem all night was they couldn’t hit anything, shooting just 17 of 55 from the floor while Kentucky hit over half of their field goals shooting 25 of 48. What happened to your guys Bruce Pearl???

I’ll tell you what happened. One word: Defense

Kentucky played outstanding defense the entire game. Not once did Tennessee score without being contended. There were times when I thought Tennessee had an easy bucket, and then out of no was a stolen pass, or a blocked shot. It was easy to see Tennessee was playing frustrated all day, and somehow I get the feeling that the arena being full of screaming fans wearing blue didn’t help the Vols’ nerves.

Then on the other side of the court, Tennessee’s defense honestly made me sick. Every time Tennessee left Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe all alone to shoot beyond the arch, I thought surely they would make the adjustment to keep that from happening again. Instead, Bledsoe hit 5 from downtown without a single one really being contested. Then there was Kentucky’s DaMarcus Cousins. This guy had one of the best games of his season, manhandling the paint on both sides with 19 points and 15 boards.

Kentucky had amazing Defense. Tennessee had none.

Tennessee is a better team than this. They have beaten Kentucky. They have beaten Kansas.

Then again, they have lost to Florida and USC.

So while they definitely are a better team, they are also inconsistent. I know, they lost Tyler Smith and some other talent earlier in the season, but they have proved they can win regardless so to me, that excuse is null and void. If Tennessee can just zone in on their true capabilities, they can and will do some damage in the NCAA tournament.

Sunday, Kentucky will face Mississippi St. for the SEC championship, and they have truly earned the right to be there. Kentucky has an amazing squad, arguably the best in college basketball. And while the third game between Tennessee and Kentucky this year went to the Wildcats, I have a feeling they will see each other again soon…

New Writer

Posted by Graham Kelly | 11:02 AM | 0 comments »

Hey everyone below is the debut article from Vol Watch's newest writer, Stephen Kasper, here he profiles the draft prospects of several Vols in the upcoming NFL draft. He also mentions Montario Hardesty's incredible spin move which can be seen here:

If you’re a fan of more than just the Vols football team and you want to see where our beloved Vols alumni end up in the NFL, this is just the subject for you.

Montario Hardesty, Dan Williams, and Eric Berry are the best Volunteers in the draft this year. With the draft only a few weeks away, what uniform are we likely to see these guys put on after it’s all said and done? Well, the draft is as unpredictable as Armageddon, but I like to think I have a decent guess.

I’ll start with Montario Hardesty. Here’s a guy who I thought should have started his entire college career, even over Arian Foster. He’s got decent speed and the ability not only to break tackles but to evade them. Remember his sick spin move?

So, what are some possibilities for Hardesty in the draft? Well, the NFL free agency isn’t over just yet and with a few big name running backs still available it’s hard to tell. However, my pick has got to be San Diego. The Chargers cut LaDainian Tomlinson leaving their primary back to be the 5’6” speedy Darren Sproles. While I do love Sproles, especially at his other job (punt and kick returner), I am not convinced he can handle the workload of a full time running back.

Don’t get me wrong, Sproles is very good and when he does find a hole he gets through it fast and explosive. San Diego is very confident is Sproles or they wouldn’t have cut an amazing running back in LT. With that confidence they have in Sproles, I don’t see the Chargers making a running back their first priority in the draft. But I still firmly believe they want more depth at the position, and that’s exactly what Hardesty gives to any team. The Chargers have a late pick in each round so I could see them picking up Hardesty with their 3rd round pick. If the Chargers don’t get him, look for Hardesty to go a few picks earlier to the Eagles who released Brian Westbrook, or if he drops a few picks to the Redskins with new running back-crazy head coach Mike Shanahan.

Our next former Vol on the list is Dan Williams. In college we loved his ability to clog the middle and stop the run. That’s what Tennessee has always been known for and he lived up to that responsibility.

The Minnesota Vikings have the one of the best pass rushes in the NFL with Jared Allen and Ray Edwards, but they need some more force in the middle and that’s exactly what Dan Williams would give them from day 1. Their main man in the middle right now, Pat Williams, is soon to retire if not this year, in the near future. With defensive linemen like Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh in the draft, Williams won’t be drafted until they are gone. Lucky for him that’s going to be pretty quick and I see the Vikings picking up Williams at pick 30 in the 1st round.

If the Vikings don’t pick up Williams, look for Rex Ryan and his defense-happy Jets to snatch him up right before the Vikings. If he ends up dropping to the second round and the Buccaneers can’t get Suh or McCoy in the first round with their 3rd overall pick, Williams would be a likely pickup and consolation prize early in the second round for Tampa.

Speaking of Tampa Bay, with the 3rd overall pick in the draft, Eric Berry is next on the list! Ask me and I will tell you I hate thinking of Berry in Tampa Bay. For some reason I just don’t like it, but it’s my honest pick. And I can’t blame the Bucs. They need help at the DB position and Berry will come in as a rookie and give any team an immediate boost not only in the secondary, but on the entire defense. It’s well known that the Bucs would like to have Suh or McCoy, and if either are somehow still available after the first 2 picks, The Bucs will go with them and what I predicted with Dan Williams becomes more possible.

If this does actually happen, and the Bucs don’t get Berry for Suh or McCoy, it won’t be long before Berry is picked up. Predicting where he might end up is extremely difficult. Just about every team in the top 10 could use the help in the secondary. After Tampa Bay in the draft there is Washington, Kansas City, Seattle, Cleveland, Oakland, and Buffalo. Other than Washington, who I am fairly certain will draft a QB with their first pick, any of those teams are possibilities for Berry. But I definitely don’t see him dropping out of the top 10. The draft is unpredictable, but one thing is certain about Eric Berry’s future. He will completely change how other teams play him and his future team.

A few other Vols to be on the watch for in the draft include John Crompton QB, Rico McCoy LB, Chris Scott OT, and Dennis Rogan CB.

Dooley Speaks

Posted by Graham Kelly | 11:26 PM | 0 comments »

Derek Dooley spoke at length with the Knoxville Tip Off club a couple days ago very interesting press conference and his first public appearance since national signing day. (If the video doesn't work try a browser other than Internet Explorer.)


Posted by Graham Kelly | 9:10 PM | , | 0 comments »

Well the Lane Train is gone to what is according to him the number one job in America. Some of us would disagree. This is simply a devastating blow to the program. Now many rumors are running around Knoxville as to who his possible replacement will be. Texas D-Coordinator, Will Muschamp and Air Force Head Coach, Troy Calhoun have pulled themselves out of consideration according to the Dallas Morning Star and the Denver Post. ESPN's Joe Schad has said he expects Duke's head coach and former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe will be one of Athletic Director Mike Hamilton's candidates. There also rumors that some UT trustees are attempting to go behind Mike Hamilton’s back and hire back Phil Fulmer as either coach or AD. Its possibly well known booster “Thunder” Thornton who has never seen quite eye to eye with Mike Hamilton as portrayed by Clay Travis book “On Rocky Top”. Lots more to come as well as some of my eye witness reactions on campus to the aftermath of Kiffin's leaving.

Also, the title is a Swiperboy reference it means shaking my head he says it in a lot of his posts on Twitter.

On the other hand Tennessee teams always respond well to adversity like these guys.