The clock is ticking on Tennessee basketball and coach Cuonzo Martin’s Vols.
What he claimed to be his best team yet since arriving on Rocky Top is falling apart at the seams since the turn of the New Year. However, that has been the norm in the month of January since he took over the job in 2011.
After Saturday’s debilitating loss to Florida, the Vols are now 13-12 in the month of January under Martin.
Despite having his most talented team since taking over at Tennessee, Martin’s Vols are on pace to end this season the same as the previous two. With a double-digit loss season due to a slow start to the season that will ultimately leave them out of the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee suffered their seventh loss of the season at Florida on Saturday. Martin’s first loss to the Gators couldn’t have come at a worse time, or in a worse way.
With only one meeting left against a current top 25 ranked opponent (No. 6 Florida on Feb. 11), and several opponents with terrible RPI rankings, it’s possible the Vols could win out in the regular season and still miss the tournament for a third straight year.
To this point Tennessee has only capitalized on two quality wins, that barely even count as quality victories, by defeating Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and Virginia at home. What doesn’t bode well for them are their losses to UTEP, NC State, and Texas A&M.
Couple those bad losses with a road record of 1-4 and you have a recipe for being left out of the tournament yet again.
The Vols’ biggest problem remains constant, on the offensive end.
In most cases if Jordan McRae doesn’t score, the team is bound to lose. When he struggles, even with Stokes having a double-double type game, no one else picks up the slack and the Vols are left falling flat on their face.
Basically, the team has relied on McRae all season, and it may lead to their demise come Selection Sunday in March. At this point, the Vols may be forced to win the SEC tournament in order to make the NCAA. The problem with that is in recent history post-season play hasn’t been their forte. The second round is the farthest they’ve made it the past three seasons. Not to mention, it may be asking a bit much for them to pull it together as a team to go on a three-to-four game winning streak over consecutive days no matter who the competition is.
Tennessee has one more game left in January, and that’ll be at home on Wednesday night, Jan. 29 when they welcome back Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss, who torched the Vols in both games last season.