Stanley, C.J. pumped

Stanley Asumnu was rated one of American's top prep-school basketball players when he signed with Tennessee four years ago. Fellow signee C.J. Watson was regarded as one of the country's top point guard prospects.

After three largely disappointing seasons in orange, they've finally reached the Promised Land … the NCAA Tournament. Along with their teammates, they'll face Wichita State in second-round play at 3:40 today in Greensboro, N.C. CBS has the telecast.

What this experience means to Asumnu and Watson is probably beyond the comprehension of the average fan.

"It means a lot," said Watson, a man of few words. "We want to try to make our last year our best year."

Actually, their last year already is their best year, regardless of what happens from this point forward. The 2005-06 Vols won the SEC East title, posted 22 victories and qualified for the Big Dance – achievements easily surpassing those of Watson's and Asumnu's previous three seasons.

Coming off a 14-17 disappointment in 2004-05 and with a new coaching staff in place, Tennessee was a long-shot to make the NCAA Tournament this year. That makes the accomplishment even sweeter – not just for the seniors but for all of the Vols.

"It means a lot to EVERYBODY because it's everybody's first time going," Watson said. "Coach (Bruce Pearl) got us here his first year, and now we're trying to make him happy and make ourselves happy."

The best way to do that, of course, is to win. Although the Big Orange was accorded a No. 2 seeding, many analysts remain skeptical. They think Tennessee is grossly overrated and will not advance very far. What impact does that have on the Vols?

"We're very motivated," Watson said. "We're trying to go out there and prove to everybody that we ARE a 2 seed. We ARE that good, and we just want to go out there and show them.

"We're trying to get to the Sweet 16, and then go even further than that."


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