Vols got what they deserve

Tennessee's basketball players are understandably disapointed they had to settle for a bid to the NIT -- a.k.a. the Not Invited Tournament -- but they have no one to blame but themselves.

Four weeks ago, the Vols were the talk of college basketball. They had a six-game winning streak, a 15-6 record and a ton of momentum. With six games left in the regular season, Tennesse needed only to go 3-3 to lock up an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Vols failed, going 2-4 during that stretch.

A lot of ''experts,'' including Jerry Palm, said Tennessee was ''in'' with 17 wins. I never felt that way, as I noted several times on this website. I always felt 18 was the magic number.

The Big Orange had another shot at an 18th victory and a sure-fire bid to ''The Dance'' last weekend. All they had to do was win their opening game in the SEC Tournament. They failed again, losing by 13 points Friday night against another bubble team, Auburn.

Does a team that closes its season on a 2-5 skid deserve a bid to the NCAA Tournament? I don't think so, and neither did the Selection Committee.

Some UT fans are complaining because Alabama and Auburn got bids, while the Vols did not. They have a valid argument. Alabama went 7-10 against SEC teams this year, with two losses to lowly Vanderbilt. Auburn padded its 20-11 record against the likes of Wofford, Georgia State, Southeastern Louisiana, South Carolina State, Murray State, Troy State and North Texas.

Still, I can see some method to the Selection Committee's madness. Alabama beat Tennessee Feb. 22 IN KNOXVILLE. Auburn beat the Vols by 13 last weekend on a neutral floor. What better measuring stick is there than head-to-head competition, especially when it's recent?

Don't get me wrong: I thought Buzz Peterson and his staff did a fine job going 17-11 this season. I figured a .500 record was the best Tennessee could hope for with a freshman point guard and two NBA draft picks missing from last year's team. The Vols had a few dreadful performances -- the homefloor losses to Alabama and LSU, plus the SEC Tournament loss to Auburn -- but everyone stinks it up now and then.

Overall, I think the Vols should be proud of what they accomplished. I just don't think they should blame the Selection Committee for not getting an NCAA bid. On that score, they have no one to blame but themselves.

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