Next stop ... D.C.?

One year ago, Dane Bradshaw was wondering where Tennessee's coaching search would end. This year, he's wondering where Tennessee's NCAA Tournament adventure will end. Obviously, this March is a whole lot better than last March.

"Yeah," Bradshaw said recently. "Selection Sunday was one of the funnest times of my career."

The Vols have a No. 2 seed, a win under their belts and a pretty good shot at the Sweet 16. Conversely, this time last year they didn't even have a coach. Buzz Peterson had been fired following the SEC Tournament and successor Bruce Pearl had not yet been hired away from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"It's a huge difference this year," noted Bradshaw, a 6-4 junior forward who has postponed surgery on his injured right wrist so he can play in The Big Dance. "The coaching staff was under a lot of speculation last year, and the team was just playing the waiting game. This year we have our confidence rolling and the city behind us. It's a great feeling."

Like the other 2004-05 Vols, Bradshaw watched the NCAA Tournament on television last March. He can attest that it's a lot more fun when you're participating.

"It's such a huge turnaround emotionally," he said. "When you've got such a huge love for the game and you've got to watch everyone else play it out for a championship, that's tough. This year it's nice NOT to be able to go on spring break."

Several of Bradshaw's family members made the trek from Memphis to watch the Vols beat Winthrop in Thursday's first-round game. So did a brother from San Francisco and a sister from Washington, D.C. Oddly enough, the Vols will advance to the region semifinals in D.C. if they beat Wichita State Saturday in Greensboro, N.C.

"It's a four-hour drive for Bridget from D.C. to Greensboro," Bradshaw noted. "Hopefully, her next drive will be just down the street."

Before he can think about playing in the nation's capitol, however, Bradshaw has some unfinished business in Greensboro. He's determined to savor each minute of his first NCAA Tournament, even though he hopes it won't be his last.

"It's like a dream come true for me," he said. "Next year doesn't promise anything, and this is what I've been working for my whole life. I have a lot of family members visiting, so I want to share it with them."


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