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


UTC Wrestling - Michigan Transfer Joins the Mocs

Earlier this summer UTC wrestling coach Heath Eslinger was in need of an experienced 125- pounder who is a veteran of the college mat wars and can go toe-to-toe with the best in the nation. At 24 and a veteran of two NCAA tournaments, sixth year senior Sean Boyle is that guy. A former Michigan wrestler, Boyle trades the Wolverines’ Maze and Blue for the ... (click for more)

Dalton State Basketball Signs Florida High School Star

Dalton State basketball Coach Tony Ingle has announced the signing of Deshawn Ruffin, a 5’11” freshman point guard from the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fl. “We are excited to have Deshawn as a Roadrunner,” Ingle said. “I am sure he will give our fans a great deal to cheer about. It’s difficult for a freshman to get serious playing time and make positive contributions, but ... (click for more)

EPB Files With FCC To Expand TV, Phone, Internet Offerings Outside Electric Service Area

 EPB announced Thursday that it has filed a petition to the FCC "in an effort to respond to neighboring communities’ requests for access to the company’s gigabit enabled high-speed Internet service." Officials said, "EPB offers high-speed Internet access, video programming and voice services using a fiber optic communications network that allows the company to deliver these ... (click for more)

Black Creek Developers Say They "Followed The Rules" On $9 Million TIF: To Continue Project

The developers of the Black Creek project at Aetna Mountain said Thursday they "complied precisely by the rules when we applied for and received approval of the TIF district." Doug Stein said the group plans to continue on with the project, which he said earlier would include the creation of a small town on a huge undeveloped tract on the mountain above Black Creek (formerly ... (click for more)

Cell Phones And Roundabouts

I read the article written by Chris Morgan about the use of cell phones in vehicles and the Chattanooga Roundabouts. Cell phone use in vehicles especially in crisis intersection situations is extremely dangerous. I also agree with his assessment about the roundabouts. One problem I see with roundabouts is that on the two-lane roundabouts where they are coming in from ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The NCAA’s “Division IV”

Jonathan Jensen and Brian Turner are two very smart guys. Not long ago the two sports researchers at Ohio State authored a story that appeared in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports that focused on the most successful college football teams in the country and, earlier this week, a writer named Ben Cohen broke it down in understandable terms for a fascinating Wall Street ... (click for more)