The Tennessee Volunteers overcame a lot in posting a 78-65 win over Iowa Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. They first had to deal with a flow of emotion for the Hawkeyes as Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery dealt with his thirteen year old son Patrick’s surgery early Wednesday morning to remove a tumor from his thyroid. McCaffery was with his son early in the morning and when everything turned out well in the operating room, he flew to Dayton to coach his team.
The Volunteers next had to overcome a cold start from the field, missing their first six shots and falling behind 16-4 early in the first half. They rallied to cut that deficit to three (29-26) at intermission, but they failed to take the lead until the 3:05 mark in regulation when senior Antonio Barton hit a huge three-pointer giving the Big Orange a 59-57 lead. From that point, there were five lead changes leading to a 64-64 tie at the end.
In overtime, it was all Tennessee. The much heralded Volunteer defense held the high-scoring Hawkeyes to a mere free-throw in the extra five minute period, and Tennessee advances to face UMass Friday in Raleigh, N.C. in round two of the Midwest Regional.
“I told our guys we’ve been through everything this season, keep your composure down the stretch,” Coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Find ways to win the ball game.”
Senior Jordan McRae led Tennessee with 20 points while junior Jarnell Stokes posted his 20th double-double of the year with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Junior Josh Richardson chipped in 15 points and his outstanding defense was partly responsible in holding the Hawkeye’s leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble to a season low 7 points on 3 of 15 shooting from the field.
Tennessee made a lot of big shots in the game, but in the end it was defense that got it done. “We did a tremendous job of fighting back at the end,” Jordan McRae said after the game. We did a great job on defense. For us to hold them like we did was a great job.”
In round two, Tennessee will face UMass, the number six seed in the Midwest. I’m picking the Vols to pull off the upset of the Minutemen, but fall to Duke on Sunday. As always there will be a few upsets in the NCAA Tournament, and some of them will be in the Midwest Region. For what it’s worth (not much) I’m picking the defending National Champion Louisville Cardinals to advance to the Final Four from their number four seed, upsetting top-seed Wichita State and number two Michigan to get there. I’m picking the Florida Gators to advance from the South and the 30-4 Arizona Wildcats to make the Final Four from the West.
In the East, my pick is second seed Villanova, who will knock off Michigan State in the East Finals to advance to Arlington, Texas. (Sorry Mr. President)
A warning; don’t put a lot into my picks. I have always struggled picking the NCAA Tournament as I have often documented. It took me only five minutes to fill out my bracket this year as compared to more than an hour in past years, when I put a lot of thought into it. (Maybe that has been my problem; I have always overthought the NCAA Tournament.) Good luck on your brackets and have fun…..it’s going to be a great “Big Dance.”
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org