Monthly Archives: February 2014

Vandy’s Stallings says those who want Martin fired are ‘idiots’

A fellow Purdue alum turned coaching rival of Cuonzo Martin came out swinging for the Tennessee men’s basketball coach on Thursday. Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings referred to those who want Martin fired as … idiots.

“For people to speculate on his job is absurd,” Stallings told reporters. “He’s in his third year, and that’s ridiculous.”

He continued.

“He (Martin) is doing a good job with their team,” he said. “Like I said, they’re getting ready to make the NCAA tournament. It takes some time when you go in there and you have to change some things, change the way things are done. I think it’s absolutely a joke that people would speculate or comment on his job status. It used to be, in this business, that guys got four or five years to show what they can do. The only thing that’s changed is people thinking they ought to have more of a say in that, and then weak athletic administrations giving into that kind of pressure. Hopefully the people and the powers and be over at Tennessee will tune those idiots out and give the guy the kind of time he deserves to do the job he needs to do.”

UT (17-11, 8-7 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (15-12, 7-8) at noon on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Commodores beat the Vols 64-60 earlier this season. Below is the video of Stallings’ comments, released by Vanderbilt. The Martin question comes at 5:11.

RPI Tracker: Vols enter must-win territory starting with Georgia

When sports writers participating in this year’s NCAA mock tournament selection met in Indianapolis last Thursday and Friday, they tried to predict what this year’s 68-team field would look like.

The Vols made the cut by the width of a cheap, paper Valentine.

“Their RPI, their wins and losses put them directly on the bubble,” Reid Forgrave of FOX Sports, who participated, said Tuesday. “The general conversation was there are two locks from the SEC — Florida and Kentucky. The rest of them are totally up in the air. If there was one team that was closest to getting in, it was Tennessee. The next was Missouri.”

On Saturday Missouri beat the Vols 75-70 in Columbia, Mo.

Don’t expect UT coach Cuonzo Martin and his players to join us in the bracketology talk, but they know where they stand. There is little to no wiggle room for the Vols (15-10, 6-6 SEC), who host Georgia (14-10, 8-4) at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

The NCAA updated its official RPI Monday. The Vols are 54th. They no longer hold the third-best RPI in the league. That now belongs to Missouri (38th). The Vols will get a second chance at the Tigers in Knoxville on March 8. But that game could be mostly meaningless if UT doesn’t take care of five SEC teams with less appealing RPIs. The following teams precede Missouri: Georgia (88), Texas A&M (135), Mississippi State (190), Vanderbilt (89) and Auburn (163).

And here are UT’s best wins and losses, according to the NCAA’s RPI:

Wins in RPI …

Virginia (17)
Xavier (41)
LSU (72)
Ole Miss (69)
Arkansas (75)
Wake Forest (101)
Morehead State (114)
Alabama (118)
South Carolina (159)
Auburn (163)
USC Upstate (188)
Tennessee Tech (247)
Tennessee State (322)
The Citadel (348)
Remember, the win against Division II Tusculum doesn’t count

Losses in RPI …

2X Florida (4)
Wichita State (7)
Kentucky (13)
Missouri (38)
Xavier (41)
N.C. State (51)
Vanderbilt (89)
UTEP (100)
Texas A&M (135)

Do the Vols have to win out to make the NCAA tournament?

 

Under Consideration …

That’s where the Tennessee men’s basketball team landed Thursday, when media members got together in Indianapolis for the first day of the annual NCAA mock selection. The process has no influence on Selection Sunday, but it gives everyone a heads up on what to expect.

For those cheering for UT, it’s time to start holding breath. Your team, which sits at 15-9, 6-5 SEC, is squarely on the bubble. Again.

First the mock selection determined its 11 automatic qualifiers. Then it picked 24 at-large bids. Only two SEC teams made that cut. Florida got a one seed. Kentucky got a three.

Meanwhile UT and four other SEC teams — Arkansas, LSU, Missouri and Ole Miss — sweated like kids waiting to get picked in gym class. They were lumped with 39 teams who hoped to land one of the 23 remaining bracket spots in the 68-team field. That’s where they will wait until the mock selection resumes Friday.

Regardless of where UT finishes, Thursday’s news was enough to show how dicey things might get for the Vols. Some are convinced UT  — a team that hasn’t won more than four games in a row this season — needs to rattle off seven wins in seven games in order to punch a ticket.

I think the Vols need to win six.

Before conference play started I asked college hoops maven Ken Pomeroy how many league wins he thought UT would need to make the dance. Twelve would get the Vols in, he predicted. Eleven would make things rocky.

On Thursday, I asked ESPN college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes the same question. Subscribers can read the full Q&A here, but this was his answer:

“They are still on the radar enough that they don’t have to win out,” he said. “They have seven games left. If they win at Missouri, that’s a great win, and they’re right back in the thick of the NCAA conversation. Both games against Missouri are going to be crucial. They could be compared head-to-head to Missouri.”

Right now UT and Mizzou are neck and neck in the RPI. ESPN has the Tigers at 48th and the Vols at 50th. The two meet Saturday in Columbia, Mo., then close the SEC regular season together in Knoxville on March 8.

In between UT plays the following opponents: Georgia (99 in ESPN’s RPI), Texas A&M (122), Mississippi State (179), Vanderbilt (80) and Auburn (155).

Right now, it appears the following things are true:

1. Wins against Missouri will really help
2. A loss to any of the other remaining SEC teams will really hurt.
3. More than one loss will likely kill UT’s tournament hopes altogether.

Reviewing the questionable no-call in Vols’ loss to Vanderbilt

 

Cuonzo Martin saw contact.

The Tennessee men’s basketball coach stomped his feet hard on the floor and opened his hands, palms up, toward the nearest referee.

Where was the foul?

Kevin Stallings saw it differently. From the other end of the court, he thought one of his players poked the ball away from a driving Josh Richardson.

“In the locker room I asked who deflected it and (Dai-Jon) Parker raised his hand,” the Vanderbilt coach said.

After some film review I think Martin was the correct coach. This video shows why.

Vanderbilt leads 62-60 with about five seconds left when Richardson attacks the basket. Parker reaches in and appears to hit Richardson on Richardson’s left arm. The ball pops out and Richardson flails. Then Vanderbilt forward Rod Odom gathers the miss, gets fouled and heads to the free throw line, where he cements the Commodores’ 64-60 win.

“It looked like contact,” Martin said of the play. “But it’s a no-call, and that’s part of it. It’s a tough one, but that doesn’t win or lose a ball game.”

Chart: The Vols’ average plus/minus scores through January

Antonio Barton is sinking fast, and everyone probably undervalues Josh Richardson.

That’s what I took away from the most recent edition of the plus/minus chart I have updated periodically during the Tennessee men’s basketball season. This newest one shows averages from first game of the season all the way through January, meaning UT’s win at Alabama on Feb. 1 isn’t included. That game will be included in the next update, along with whatever happens from UT’s game against Vanderbilt in Nashville this evening.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 9.57.44 AM

click on the chart to enlarge

Observations from this go-round:

  • League play means lower +/- averages across the board. While the SEC isn’t one of the toughest conferences, gone are the Tusculums and Citadels the Vols padded stats against during nonconference play. Example: Derek Reese, who was at a skewed 12.33 through the nonconference season, has returned to Earth.
  • It doesn’t look like Barton is the plug-and-play point guard this team expected. The senior fell into a slump that cost him his starting spot. Now Darius Thompson is taking his minutes. Barton’s +/- through the nonconference slate was 8.69. It will continue to drop unless something changes.
  • Josh Richardson, like Jeronne Maymon, is incredibly important. When UT games land on TV, announcers mention two names: Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes. But Maymon’s +/- of 9.4 is currently the highest on the team. And Richardson’s 7.9 is higher than Stokes’ 7.5. We’ve mentioned Maymon’s understated value before. Richardson is no different. He holds the team together despite being out of the spotlight.