They might as well start work on stitching up another banner for the Lady Vols to hang from the Thompson Boling Arena rafters. Not that that should come as any big news. Tennessee's now won 35 consecutive SEC games and of course 31 conference championships.
I called two Lady Vols games over the past week and both times they overwhelmed when they turned on the switch. Sunday after Coach Pat chewed them out at halftime and threatened that they'd walk home from Auburn if they didn't play better, Tennessee blew out the Tigers in the 2nd half and won by 21...in a game in which they shot 31 and committed 18 TO.
Four days later, after leading Georgia by 9 at halftime, they crushed Georgia 80-51 in a game in which it appeared the "so demoralized Lady Dogs" quit in the 2nd half. In Glory Johnson and Shekinna Sticklin they've got two of the best players in the nation and their freshman PG Ariel Massengale has shown this week that she can score with consecutive games of a career-high 19 points, at one point hitting 10 consecutive shots, six straight threes and, against the Lady Dogs, doling out 9 assists.
So unless the Kentucky Wildcats have something for them (and I'll see them in person later this month), I don't see anybody stopping Tennessee from another SEC crown. The big question is on the national level where 1 Baylor already beat the Lady Vols in Knoxville and 4 Stanford stuck 97 on them before Christmas. Pretty strong evidence Tennessee doesn't have enough to get a 9th NCAA Championship this season.
As for Pat Summitt, it's obvious she's not the same coach she used to be. Her role in games and practices has become more of a CEO, interacting more with her assistant coaches than with her players. But don't be mistaken, she is still the Boss and I hope she can keep going as long as wants too and as long as her health allows. She is one of my all-time favorites.
Sports talk radio in Knoxville is pretty much dominated by one topic and that's Dooley...will he survive or why hasn't he been fired yet? The noise level only increased this week after DC Justin Wilcox left the program for Washington and reports got out that Clemson's Kevin Steele had been offered the job (24 hours later his defense gave-up 70 to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl) and that the once maligned John Chavis (now living the good life at LSU) had been approached.
Now it appears that former Hurricanes Head Coach Randy Shannon is in the mix. To me that's a sure sign of desperation to bring in a DC who no doubt has designs on being a head coach again. Not saying that Shannon would do anything to undercut Dooley but it sure would make it convenient for the administrationif the 2012 season didn't get off to a great start to have a former Head Coach and "supposed great recruiter of south Florida talent" already on the staff.
Look, I don't know if Dooley's gonna win at Tennessee or not but I do know he's got to be given at least a chance. He's had one recruiting class and this year will be his second. You can't count the one in 2010 when he took the job two weeks before signing day. I think they've got some nice young talent on that team but they were all freshman and sophomores this season. How you gonna compete in the SEC with youth like that and when your star QB Tyler Bray misses the most important month of the season? I understand the Vol Nation's impatience...it's been 13 years since the national championship and it seems the program is only getting farther from another one than closer. Realistically a coach should get at least 4 or 5 seasons for a true evaluation of his coaching and recruiting abilities. That said, it's the SEC and you paid a lot of money to show results...sooner than later. Tennessee needs to show some progress next season...a winning record overall....500 in the conference would be nice. But please, Vols fans, step away from the ledge. You're making me nervous...
It's going to be a long season. Coach Martin was not left with a great deal of talent and the talent he was left with are "Bruce Pearl type" players and not "Cuonzo Martin type" players. Like Dooley, you got to give him some time, but the good news is that unlike football, the turnaround curve in basketball shouldn't be as long, because it takes fewer good great players to make a difference and let's face it...the SEC slope isn't near as steep in basketball as it is in football. Martin was hired because he was able to win at Missouri State and he did it in a short amount of time. He was a great player at Purdue and learned from one of the best in the Big 10...Gene Keady. He hasn't forgotten how to do any of that since he arrived in Knoxville. I think he'll get it done...just not this season.