It has been three days since the Lady Vols' season came to an end at the hands of Louisville.
These few days have provided ample time to sit back and evaluate Tennessee's season and really put the 86-78 Elite
Eight loss in perspective of the entire body of work.
Inside a vacuum of the NCAA Tournament, the loss to Louisville is quite disappointing and confusing after the strong outing against Oklahoma just days before.
The Lady Vols shot poorly, particularly in the first half, but bad shooting nights are going to happen. Some nights they just aren't falling. Even without electric scoring UT still had an opportunity, down by four with less than two minutes to go, to win.
But looking back at the loss compared to the rest of the season, it is not all that strange.
The loss was one where the Lady Vols didn't play strong defense — especially in the first half when they made turnovers and dug themselves too large a hole to dig out of.
But in reality these are things that Tennessee has struggled with at various points throughout the year.
They surrendered over 80 points four times in 2013. In those games the Lady Vols were 1-3 — the only win coming in a 88-81 overtime win over Middle Tennessee State University. The first was Holly Warlick's inaugural game as coach against UT-Chattanooga, MTSU was the second and the third was UT's first SEC loss of the year when it traveled to Missouri on Feb. 3.
All of these games were similar to Tuesday night's defeat: poor defense on the paint and not getting back after a made basket.
The majority of the Lady Vols' turnovers came in the first half and contributed to the 15 point halftime deficit. They tightened up in the second half and kudos to Warlick and the team for getting their act together after halftime, but it was a problem in the aforementioned losses as well.
The Lady Vols committed 26 turnovers against UTC, 19 against Missouri and 15 against the Cardinals.
Is this to say that Warlick's first season at the helm of the Tennessee program was a failure? Not at all.
The first-year coach did a tremendous job, and if everyone is honest this is where the Lady Vols were speculated to see their season end — only at the hands of the Baylor Bears instead of Louisville.
I don't think there is anyone who could have taken over for Pat Summitt and transitioned into a new era the way Warlick did this year. Sure, there are other great coaches around the country and other than a select few any coach in the women's game would jump at the opportunity to be the coach of a program like Tennessee. But no one would have been as prepared and ready for the task like Warlick.
Arguably, the most noteworthy accomplishment of Warlick and her staff was getting the most out of senior Kamiko Williams. Even Summitt was not able to get the guard to give her all on the court night-in and night-out.
The Lady Vols were picked to finish fourth in the SEC this year. They dispelled that and took the regular season conference championship, another notch for the first-year coach.
Was Tuesday night's loss disappointing? Of course.
Tennessee was 40 minutes away from being back in the Final Four for the first time since 2008, now the longest drought in UT history.
It hurts because the biggest threat to UT's dominance was that of Baylor, and they were out of the way. The idea that a No. 5 seed could beat a No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 2 seed Tennessee seemed improbable. But credit goes to the Cardinals. They were able to get the Lady Vols out of their game and did what they did against the Bears. Hit their opponent in the mouth early and cling to life down the stretch as their opponent stormed back only to be thwarted by the lack of time remaining.
The Lady Vols lost because Louisville exploited the things Tennessee struggled with throughout the year. The team made it as far as everyone imagined at the start of the tournament and even further than was expected at the beginning of the year. I'd call that a success.
— Austin Bornheim is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @ABornheim.