NCAA BK

Close losses hurting Vols' NCAA tourney hopes

Share This Story

   
 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)

Near misses are becoming all too common for Tennessee.

After falling just short of the NCAA tournament each of the past two years, Tennessee (16-11, 7-7 SEC) could fail to earn a bid again because of its inability to win close games.

Tennessee enters Wednesday's game at Mississippi State (13-14, 3-11) holding a 2-10 record in games with single-digit margins and an 0-5 mark in matchups decided by five points or fewer.

The Vols, who have lost three of their past four overall, remain confident they can turn things around.

''It's not over,'' Tennessee guard Jordan McRae said. ''We've still got four games left. We've still got the (SEC) tournament. The season's not over yet. The (NCAA) tournament could still happen.''

The pattern of close losses continued Saturday with a 68-65 overtime defeat at Texas A&M that increased speculation regarding the future of Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin.

Tennessee made six straight NCAA tournament appearances before Martin's arrival. The Vols reached the NIT each of Martin's first two seasons. Martin said he doesn't ''waste time and energy'' worrying about his job security.

''If you put the work in, everything else will take care of itself,'' Martin said. ''I don't have that time and energy (to worry about distractions). If it's negative, I don't consume myself with it.''

The Texas A&M game dropped Tennessee out of the mock NCAA tournament bracket produced by CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm. ESPN's Joe Lunardi still has Tennessee participating in a play-in game.

''They've got to win the games they're supposed to win,'' Palm said. ''They're not doing that.''

The Vols believe they can change that.

''It's something that has to be done,'' McRae said. ''We've got to win these last four games. We're real confident because we're more than capable of winning these last four.''

Tennessee went 11-7 in games with single-digit margins last season, which makes the Vols' struggles in close games this season hard to comprehend. Tennessee's lack of production from its point guards may help explain the discrepancy.

Former Tennessee point guard Trae Golden was erratic last season, but he could carry a team when he was at his best. Golden has since transferred to Georgia Tech, where he's averaging 13.1 points per game.

The Vols believed Antonio Barton, a natural shooting guard, could fill the void created by Golden's departure. But the Memphis transfer lost his starting job midway through the season and has scored more than seven points just once in his past 11 games.

Barton splits time with freshman Darius Thompson, who hasn't exceeded two points in any of Tennessee's past six games.

''You've got to get production at that position,'' Martin said. ''(It's) not so much scoring points (as) running the team, distributing the basketball, getting guys in position to score.''

Tennessee could regain some momentum against Mississippi State, which has lost nine straight games. Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon - both 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds - should have a major matchup advantage against a Mississippi State team that ranks last in the SEC in blocks and 12th out of 14 conference teams in rebound margin.

''Our lack of inside depth wasn't an issue during non-conference games,'' Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. ''As we continued to play physical, big SEC teams, it's proven to be a problem.''

Martin believes his team can still get an NCAA bid even if it doesn't win the SEC tournament. Palm agreed it's too early to rule out the Vols of an at-large consideration.

''If you're on the bubble, you still have a chance,'' Palm said. ''Tennessee's still on the bubble. There's too much basketball left to be played to eliminate a team like Tennessee.''

---

AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Starkville, Miss., contributed to this report.

Tagged: Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Trae Golden, Tennessee

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



NCAA BK Videos

Georgetown, Syracuse to renew CBK rivalry Posted: Jun 10, 2014
Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III on the renewal of the rivalry betw...

Cuonzo Martin new head coach at Cal Posted: Apr 16, 2014
Cuonzo Martin is introduced as Cal's new head coach.

UConn tops Notre Dame in women's final Posted: Apr 09, 2014
Hear from Geno Auriemma and his players after their National Championship victor...

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators #1 Replica Elite Basketball Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/885881/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_885000/ff_885881_xl.jpg&w=100 74.95 Nike Florida Gators #1 Replica Elite Basketball Jersey - Black
    Nike Georgetown Hoyas #22 Hyper Elite Road Performance Jersey - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Georgetown_Hoyas/browse/featuredproduct/1030243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1030000/ff_1030243_xl.jpg&w=100 119.95 Nike Georgetown Hoyas #22 Hyper Elite Road Performance Jersey - Navy Blue
    Nike Duke Blue Devils #5 Tourney Takeover Replica T-Shirt - Duke Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Duke_Blue_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/1032710/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1032000/ff_1032710_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike Duke Blue Devils #5 Tourney Takeover Replica T-Shirt - Duke Blue
    Nike Oregon Ducks X-Ray Ball T-Shirt - Green http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oregon_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/1052002/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1052000/ff_1052002_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Oregon Ducks X-Ray Ball T-Shirt - Green
    Nike Ohio State Buckeyes Road Warrior Tri-blend T-Shirt - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Ohio_State_Buckeyes/browse/featuredproduct/1052645/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1052000/ff_1052645_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Ohio State Buckeyes Road Warrior Tri-blend T-Shirt - Scarlet
    Indiana Hoosiers 2013 NCAA Men\'s Basketball Road to March Madness T-Shirt - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Indiana_Hoosiers/browse/featuredproduct/1124528/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1124000/ff_1124528_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Indiana Hoosiers 2013 NCAA Men\'s Basketball Road to March Madness T-Shirt - Cri..
    adidas Louisville Cardinals 2013 March Madness #10 Premier Swingman Jersey - Red http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Louisville_Cardinals/browse/featuredproduct/1127200/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1127000/ff_1127200_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas Louisville Cardinals 2013 March Madness #10 Premier Swingman Jersey - Red
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 March Madness #45 Premier Swingman Jersey - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/1127218/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1127000/ff_1127218_xl.jpg&w=100 89.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 March Madness #45 Premier Swingman Jersey ..
    Nike Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness Bracketville T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Gonzaga_Bulldogs/browse/featuredproduct/1155821/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1155000/ff_1155821_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness Bracketville T-Shirt - Navy Blue
    Top of the World Miami Hurricanes 2013 NCAA ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Champions Adjustable Hat – Green http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Miami_Hurricanes/browse/featuredproduct/1177723/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1177000/ff_1177723_xl.jpg&w=100 25.95 Top of the World Miami Hurricanes 2013 NCAA ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Cham..