Up to this point, Tennessee basketball fans are more than likely a little disappointed with the way the season has gone thus far.
The team is just 11-9 and under .500 in conference play, and for a team who finished second in the SEC East last year with high hopes, it hasn't lived up to the hype.
But though the team hasn't necessarily produced the way the fans — and the team — would like to have at this point, there are some things about this year's team that have impressed me.
The Vols are a resilient group.Outside of the home game against Ole Miss, Tennessee hasn't lost by more than 17 — I'm going to throw the Oklahoma State game out because the Vols were trying to give lots of players minutes and trying out different rotations in the beginning of the year tournament. The team doesn't give up. They battle and because of that they always seem to have a chance at the end of ballgames, even if they have been outplayed for 35 minutes — the Kentucky game is a good example.
It has taken some time but Tennessee has seemed to overcome the loss of Jeronne Maymon well. Early in the season there was lots of talk about how well the Vols were playing without him but that was against lesser competition. When the Vols matched up against equal or greater opponents the loss of the All-SEC forward was glaring.
But after a deep valley where they lost 4-of-5, it appears the team has started to figure out their identity for the back stretch of the season.Jordan McRae has emerged a true scoring threat, Jarnell Stokes has figured out how to play in the post without the help of another bruiser taking up bodies, and freshmen Armani Moore and Derek Reese have showed lots of promise the past three games.I doubt the Volunteers will make it to the NCAA Tournament this season. They could surprise me and make a big run for the final 11 games, but even with that I think the lack of depth in the SEC and lack quality wins will keep Tennessee out on the outside looking in.
It might be another year in the NIT and fans are tired of mediocrity from their sports programs, but that might be the course.
It's tougher to overcome the loss of a great player on a basketball team than on a football team, and it's taken the Vols healthy roster too long to develop. Down the final leg of the season, don't be surprised to see a run much like the Volunteers late season magic last year now that they have seemed to start clicking.
It might still go down as a disappointing year when preseason hopes are taken into account, but it might be the best thing for the team to experience the disappointment before they attempt to resurrect the Tennessee of years past.