So I forgot to post my Associated Press vote this week. Maybe last week, too. (Ahem). I got all caught up in the Oscars this past Sunday. Not sure what happened the previous Sunday. Is it still February?
I’ll put my full vote from Sunday at the bottom of this post, but will mention here that I ranked Tennessee No. 20. This was before the Vols’ 63-61 loss at LSU on Thursday, which ended with the officials needing to go over to the monitor to look at the time left on a so-called jump ball that never even came close to happening.
It was the kind of amateurish finish that seemed almost fitting for a game that kept reminding us, throughout, who wasn’t on the floor anymore for these teams. Like, everybody.
There is always turnover each season, of course, but this is to a freakish extreme. Both Tennessee and LSU lost all five of their starters from 2007-2008, making Thursday’s game somewhat like “Laverne & Shirley” after Shirley left the show.
You kept saying, “This is just not the same thing.” At least for now.
(BTW, I heard the other day that the TV show “Smallville” was going to return for a ninth season. I’ve never seen a single second of a single episode. I know it’s about Superman, and that’s all. It made me realize that many of my TV references are soon going to be hopelessly out of date, if they aren’t already.)
So while we watched Tennessee’s youngsters go against LSU’s youngsters _ led by two coaches who were strategizing against each other before any of these kids were born _ the thoughts were more on what these teams used to be, and what they will be in subsequent seasons.
Of course, we’ve followed every nick, cut, scrape, bruise and scab in regard to Tennessee’s growing pains this season, while LSU’s been largely out of the national spotlight. Yet, look who got the last bye in the SEC tournament: the Bayou Bengals.
Junior Allison Hightower has led youthful LSU, averaging 14.4 points going into Thursday’s game. But she was cramped up most of the second half, which hurt the Tigers but didn’t sink them. They now seem to be coming together pretty well, while the Vols still look like they can’t quite believe this is happening to them.
But … like I said, I’m still not buying it. That Tennessee is not a top-25 team, that is.
I know, it’s Feb. 27, and Tennessee has lost nine games. References to the 10-loss 1996-97 team do not seem like apt comparisons. The coaches’ poll put Tennessee at No. 23 on Tuesday, while we in the media had the Orange Crush at No. 18 the day before. So the question is whether Tennessee might fall out next week.
Poll-o-logy is not a science at all, so it would be goofy to refer to it as an inexact science. How about just inexact, period?
Tennessee still has one more regular-season game – against Vanderbilt on Sunday. If Tennessee beats Vandy, the Vols are not falling out my rankings. Yeah, I know people think some of us in the media are dingbats who are blinded by Tennessee’s past instead of evaluating the Vols in the present. But I really think I’m fairly judging this season’s team.
Tennessee still plays the toughest non-conference schedule, and the SEC is still difficult even in its less-impressive years. (Such as this one.)
So a 20-9 SEC team that has played most of the country’s obvious Final Four contenders (save you-know-who), is what Tennessee will be if it defeats Vandy. If that’s indeed the case, the Vols are in my poll Sunday night and nobody’s talking me out of it. (Probably). However …
If Tennessee loses to Vandy … I’m not sure. So let’s see what you guys think.
My top 25 ballot from Feb. 22:
1.Connecticut, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Stanford, 4. Baylor, 5. Maryland, 6. North Carolina 7. Auburn, 8. Duke, 9. Cal, 10. Florida State, 11. Louisville, 12. Texas A&M, 13. Pittsburgh, 14. Texas, 15. Ohio State, 16. Xavier, 17. Kansas State, 18. Florida, 19. Vanderbilt, 20. Tennessee, 21. Virginia, 22. South Dakota State, 23. Notre Dame, 24. Arizona State, 25. DePaul