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Vols don’t have recruiting rankings but “they don’t beat themselves”

P.J. Washington and Tennessee’s Grant Williams will square off again Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach John Calipari has heaped praise on Tennessee all season … and that certainly hasn’t changed now that the game is almost here.

“Tennessee is just so good,” the UK coach said. “They don’t beat themselves. They play efficient on both sides. They’re physical. They’re experienced. They’ve got older players.”

Tennessee became the first team to be ranked No. 1 without a top 100 recruit since Oklahoma during the 2015-16 season. Oklahoma reached the Final Four that season. Tennessee’s highest ranked recruit is freshman D.J. Burns at 108 — and he’s being redshirted.

Yet the Vols have won 19 straight games, are unbeaten in SEC play and are ranked No. 1.

“There’s some programs around the country that could never get by with recruiting the class that we brought in that’s having the success we’re having right now because their media and their fan base would be screaming that we’re not recruiting the best players in the country,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.

Is that a shot at UK and Duke? Maybe but it’s just an honest statement. But it has worked for the Vols and Barnes the last two years.

“They are terrific. They are the best team in the country,” Florida coach Mike White said after his team lost to Tennessee. “They are equally as good defensively as they are offensively. I think versatility, discipline, toughness and strength are words I would use to describe them on both side of the basketball.

“They defended us at a high level again. They are all very strong and can muscle you. Their bigs can move their feet. It is really a good combination. They are really good.”

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  1. It simply shows there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    There is the Calipari OAD way, which seems to produce national championship caliber results at least 2 times in a decade, and there is the old fashioned way, which may produce national championship caliber results 1 or 2 times in a decade.

    Pick your poison, and work to make it work for you. As much as I do not like the OAD approach, it is difficult to argue with Calipari’s results in the aggregate, other than attempting to argue that he should have produced more national championship contenders than he has I find that a difficult argument to sustain based on the last 10 years. Let’s see how Tennessee does on this huge stage over the course of several seasons.

    1. Fair points Professor

  2. I don’t think UT wins the national title this year, I could be wrong. That said, I like the old fashion way of building a championship team like Barnes is doing though, Like Joe Hall did. Calipari has only produced one NC even with all the talent he has sent to the NBA from UK. In doing so that year, he had overwhelming talent, So it is really like the Professor says, pick your poison.

    This UK team is talented, but they lack something that you can’t get in just playing together for one year or two as underclassmen. Tennessee has that now and Calipari acknowledged that as their strength this year, they are physical. experienced, and older, meaning they have been in the Tennessee system for a long time. They were good basketball players when recruited, but were not super stars. Look at them today. No. 1 in the nation and undefeated in SEC play. If they win the national title it will be a system that down through the years has produced more national champions than the OAD system ever has or ever will IMO.

    1. Have to favor Duke. Could just be wrong year for Vols, or anyone else, to be that good. But can’t help but like this Tennessee team. Seem like really good young men too

      1. If CATS can beat UT Sat. they could win it all down the road. That is a big if. They can’t miss open shots consistently and win a national title. It won’t happen. Their shooters have to hit, and UK has to play better than they did against LSU to even win the SEC.

  3. Have to favor PUKE as well with UT coming in right behind and some others that could be there as well, but I don’t see this UK even making the Final 4 nor do I see them beating UT this weekend. UT does not lose to teams not supposed to, they have consistency, they have experience, they score inside, and they get good bench support…UK has none of that.

  4. Barnes has done a great job at Tennessee. It makes me think that the other UT (Texas) may be regretting letting him go. Shaka Smart has not lived up to expectations at all. Going into the game tomorrow, we are already down 6 points from a coaching standpoint and another 6 from an experience slant. Can we overcome this pregame double digit deficit? My heart wants to say yes, but my gut says the final score will be a double digit loss. In the end, this team will be an “also ran” in both tournaments.
    As for winning it all…it won’t be Duke…someone is going to get them and I believe it will be in the first weekend. I see the same thing happening to Tennessee. I think Michigan or Michigan State will get their act together and make a serious run…maybe both will get to the Final 4. Nevada will be a Final 4 team too.

  5. Good point guys, The thing is it takes luck of the way the ball bounces and how the officials are calling the game to get in the final four. I hate to say it Duke looks to be clear favorite and Tennessee right behind. After that it’s up in the air for the other two spots. Looking forward to see how it unfolds. I’m not counting our cats out to get there it seems we play better on the road. Go Cats!!

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