The Tennessee Volunteers could have assumed that when they took a 44-19 lead over the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, they were going to be in the Sweet 16 again.
The Volunteers also could have assumed that after an atrocious and errant foul call gifted Iowa three free throws and robbed the Vols of what would have been an easy fast-break bucket late in a one-possession game, it was not going to be their day.
Tennessee, a team which has played two double-digit seeds at this NCAA Tournament — No. 15 Colgate and No. 10 Iowa — has had to fight in the last few minutes in both games and play overtime against the Hawkeyes just to make the Sweet 16.
Do you think the Volunteers are making any more assumptions about the next stop on their wild ride in 2019, which is still alive?
“The fact is, you don’t take any of this for granted,” Barnes said. “You don’t. Because, one, it’s hard to get there. It’s hard to advance. So when you do get there, you hope to take advantage of it.”
Barnes speaks from personal experience.
Barnes became the newest member of an exclusive club on Sunday with his win over Iowa. Barnes became the 12th Division I men’s basketball coach to take at least three schools to the Sweet 16. Clemson, Texas and Tennessee have all reached the second weekend of the Big Dance under Barnes’s guidance.
The list of the other 11 men appears here:
Coaches: S16 3+ schools
Pearl (WMIL, TEN, AUB)
Weber (SIU, ILL, KSU)
Kruger (KSU, FLA, LV, OU)
Smith (TUL, UGA, KY)
Pitino (PROV, KY, LOU)
Sutton (ARK, KY, OKST)
Self (TUL, ILL, KU)
Bartow (MEM, UCLA, UAB)
Calipari (MA, MEM, UK)
F McGuire (STJ, UNC, SCAR)
Miller (WICH, IA, ORST)
— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) March 24, 2019
The evolution of Tennessee basketball continues. Barnes spoke about this process, which — one must remember — is not brand-new. Barnes is in his fourth season. He needed two years to lay the foundation for what began to grow in the 2017-2018 season and has taken off this year.
“To be totally honest with you, I don’t think I had a vision or anything,” Barnes said. “I don’t. I just thought we said, ‘Hey, we’re just going to go to work and see what we can do.’ I always felt like that. You have to live one day at a time, and you have to get your players to buy into a work ethic.’
“There’s no magic dust you can sprinkle onto anything, it’s just getting the kind of guys you really want to coach and getting (them) into believing in each other and getting them to believe into what we’re trying to do and buy in to it.”
That belief has brought Tennessee to the Sweet 16. We will soon see if it can carry the Basket-Vols to an even higher place.
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