Still, going 21-13, winning the SEC East and making The Dance for the fourth year in a row isn't exactly cause for alarm.
Remember Wade Houston's 1993-94 team going 5-22? Remember Kevin O'Neill's 1994-95 team scoring in the 40s seven times? Remember Jerry Green's 1998-99 team getting hammered 81-51 by Southwest Missouri State in the NCAA Tournament? Remember four years of BuzzBall producing a 61-59 record and zero NCAA Tournament bids?
Well ... so do I. Those events were disgusting. This season was just mildly disappointing. That's why I'm cautiously optimistic Bruce Pearl can get the Vols back on the fast track in 2009-10. Here's how:
- Go back to your roots, Bruce. You always won big by playing uptempo offense and fullcourt defense. If some of your better athletes won't play defense, let them watch the action from courtside. Fans loved the blistering pace you played in previous years, and their vocal support helped fuel a 37-game home-court winning streak. If you increase the pace, they'll increase the volume.
- Find a point guard who can manufacture shots for his teammates. Bobby Maze and Josh Tabb don't make a lot of turnovers but they don't make a lot of assists, either. I understand you're looking at three junior college point guards, which is a wonderful idea.
- Find some more shooters. Your team went from hitting 35.7 percent from 3-point range in 2007-08 to hitting an SEC-worst 31.5 percent in 2008-09. Height and athleticism are nice but the game still comes down to putting the ball in the basket more often than your opponent.