Randy Smith: Vols Look To Extend Magical NCAA Run

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

A few moments after Tennessee’s 83-63 win over Mercer on Sunday evening, Coach Cuonzo Martin showed more emotion than he has shown in all of his three seasons as the Volunteers head coach. He actually wept and even hugged U.T. Athletic Director Dave Hart. He was both happy and I’m sure very relieved as his team made the NCAA’s “Sweet 16.” A much smaller man would have been tempted to tell all his detractors to “shove it” or something much worse. The man has taken more than his share of criticism this season as his Vols were forced to prove time and again why they actually belonged in the field of 64 teams. Now they’re 3-0 in this year’s “Big Dance” and will face Michigan this Friday in Indianapolis.

Some of the criticism was justified as his team lost several games in the middle portion of the season they should have won. They closed strong winning their last four regular season games and for the first time in years made a good showing in the SEC Tournament. Going into the next round of the NCAA Tournament, Tennessee is playing as well as any team in the country.

How has it happened? Why has Tennessee started playing this well? Where has Josh Richardson been all season? Those are just three of the many questions people have been asking in the past few days. I can’t give a definitive answer to any of those questions, but I’ve been around long enough to see this before. If you’re a number one or two seed, you never want to face a team that is on a big roll like Tennessee is. Real bracket-busters are the teams that get hot at the right time of the year, and Tennessee is certainly hot at the right time. As for Josh Richardson, he’s been there all along. He has been the Vols’ shut-down defensive player, always assigned to the opponents’ best scorer. He’s one of the main reasons Tennessee has been one of the nation’s best defensive teams all season long, but he has now become one of their big “go-to” scorers.

In addition to Richardson’s great play, junior power forward Jarnell Stokes seems to be a man or even a superman on a mission. He has been as dominate as any big man I’ve ever seen in the NCAA tournament, and he seems to be determined to carry this team on his shoulders all the way to the Final Four.

Back in early November I wrote that this could really be a fun year for Tennessee basketball. This team had the potential to make a strong run in the post-season, even to the Final Four. One month ago, I wouldn’t have given this team any chance at all to make the “Sweet 16”, but here they are facing Michigan with a chance to advance to the “Elite Eight”.

No matter how this turns out, it has been a lot of fun for Tennessee basketball fans. The real negative fans, and you know who you are, are already saying things like, “Well, he better enjoy it now, ‘cause they’re going to be awful next year.” Maybe expectations won’t be as high next year and a trip to the NIT will be the best they can hope for. Or, maybe they will be pretty darn good. Robert Hubbs III will be a factor to deal with next year and perhaps Josh Richardson can remain a “go-to” scorer. My advice is to enjoy the moment…..a moment that no one ever thought would happen, because next season is a long time away.


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: rsmithsports@epbfi.com

Lookouts' O'Koyea Dickson Named SL Hitter Of The Week

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Today the Southern League announced that Chattanooga Lookouts’ first baseman O’Koyea Dickson has been named the Southern League  Player of the Week for the period of July 21-27.  Dickson is the second Chattanooga Lookouts’ player to earn a weekly accolade from the league this season, outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker took home the award for the week of ... (click for more)

Ensworth Ranked No. 1 In Divison II-AA

If the 11 head coaches in Division II-AA know anything about their classification, this year’s BlueCross Bowl Division II-AA game will involve two midstate teams – Ensworth and Brentwood Academy. Both should field great teams but whether they both reach the finals has a lot to do with how the brackets are drawn up. Only time will tell what happens here. Here’s how Division ... (click for more)

Harr Outlines $40 Million Plan For Chattanooga Light Rail System

Outgoing Chamber of Commerce President Ron Harr on Monday outlined a $40 million plan for a Chattanooga light rail system that would serve not only downtown, but also the Airport and the Enterprise South Industrial Park. In a speech to the Chattanooga Engineers Club, Mr. Harr said most cities looking at such an ambitious plan "would be facing costs of over a billion dollars." ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Choo Choo Adding Clubs, Restaurants In $8 Million Renovation

The historic Chattanooga Choo Choo is adding clubs and restaurants in a $7 million renovation, it was announced in front of the South Market Street landmark on Monday morning. The Comedy Catch will be moving from its longtime home in Brainerd and there will be a new 500-person music venue that will be in addition to Track 29. The new venue, managed by Track 29, will feature a ... (click for more)

Senator Bob Corker: An Open Letter To Tennesseans

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a state in which companies worldwide are clamoring to establish a presence. Many attribute it to our pro-business culture, well-prepared workforce, low tax environment, right-to-work policies, and engaged citizenry.  That is why the announcement by Volkswagen to build its midsize sports utility vehicle and establish the South’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Wamp Refuses To Stoop

With less than two weeks before the Aug. 7 th election and the last week of early voting now underway in Hamilton County, Congressional challenger Weston Wamp sounded upbeat and relaxed early yesterday afternoon. “I’m pleased to say that I believe we are right where we need to be … maybe even more than we had hoped.” Wamp, who is challenging two-term incumbent Chuck Fleishmann ... (click for more)