February 26, 2013
Huge match-up on tap tonight
At the risk of revving the hype machine into overdrive, it seems safe to call tonight's match-up against No. 4 Florida (22-4, 12-2) the biggest game of the still young Cuonzo Martin era. Tennessee (16-10, 8-6) comes into the game as the hottest team in the SEC, but in desperate need of a 'quality win' to enhance its tournament credentials.
Tonight's visit from Florida, who very much look the part the part of a No. 1 seed in March, provides the Vols with the perfect opportunity to add precisely the sort of scalp that detractors say their NCAA tourney resume´ currently lacks.
Tennessee sits at No. 58 in the latest RPI numbers and the Vols' best win of the season, according to the index, is over No. Wichita State. Florida is presently at No. 4.
You don't have to be a 'bracketologist' to deduce that a win tonight would seriously enhance the Vols' standing.
A month ago, this match-up looked like just another game on the schedule and perhaps one that would be part of the Vols just playing out the string. But thanks to a five game winning streak, including Saturday's four overtime thriller at Texas A&M, the game has some serious postseason implications for Tennessee.
For a fan base hungry to return to the Big Dance, it's impossible to talk about the game without bringing the NCAA tournament into the conversation.
For a head coach trying to make sure his team's focus is on tonight's opponent, the chatter is something he ignores for the most part, and hopes his players do the same. Though in his experience, the Vols probably had this one circled on the calendar even before the current hot streak started.
"The thing I say all the time about players is that they read and see everything they need to see. They identify certain games and situations, match-ups, the exposure of games with ESPN, the lights," Martin said of the significance of this match-up.
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