Seven years ago today, Tennessee made some memories that will last a lifetime. The Vols drew the Iowa Hawkeyes in Dayton for the First Four, back when they actually played the NCAA Tournament at different sites in non-pandemic times. For the majority of the game, the Vols lagged behind by anywhere from 2-10 points; it was as if Iowa knew exactly when to stop Vol runs and force their way back out in front.
Down by five with about ten minutes left, Josh Richardson received a pass on the perimeter and drove to the basket. What he did next is etched in my memory forever:
Objectively, what this is is a two-point play to take the game from five to three points. Subjectively, both teams’ attitudes changed from that point forward. Tennessee took the lead and later went to overtime, where they won by 13 points; they used this to springboard a Sweet Sixteen run that came up just shy of the second-ever Elite Eight. I don’t remember any play from either of the two actual NCAA Tournament wins. What I remember is Josh Richardson driving the lane, determined to deliver Tennessee to the field of 64 even if he was the only guy doing it.
In a somewhat similar fashion, the 2020-21 Volunteers have a golden opportunity today to redeem some of the frustration caused by inconsistent play. They’re facing a very vulnerable 12 seed that plays a lot like they do. If Tennessee plays it correctly, they’re going to get the opportunity to deliver a lot of beautiful March moments. As a fan, I’m rooting for the chance to see it.
- THE OPPONENT: KenPom #84 Oregon State (17-12, Pac-12 champion).
- THE TIME: 4:30 PM ET.
- THE CHANNEL: TNT.
- THE ANNOUNCERS: Spero Dedes (PBP), Brendan Haywood (analyst), and Lauren Shehadi (analyst).
- THE SPREAD: Tennessee -8.5.
To click ahead to the section of your dreams, go here.
NEXT PAGE: Beaver beaver beaver