Vouching for the Vols in March

Vouching for the Vols in March

Ashton Voorhees, Reporter

It’s mid-March and the snow is finally starting to melt away. When the sun is out and the wind is howling, West Michigan starts to feel like the bearable version again that we remember from months ago. At the same time, March Madness rolls into town.

Hate it or love it, you won’t stop hearing about the tournament during the next couple of weeks. People will ask who you have winning your bracket, you will see classmates watching games during the end of the school day on their Chromebooks. The tournament is infectious and when we’re looking for anything beside school to do as spring break inches closer, it’s got our back.

But who’s actually got a shot this year? At first glance, the bracket this year seems to favor those big teams with number one seeds and most have the same teams as the frontrunners to win the championship this year. Duke is the biggest favorite by far, with Virginia and North Carolina following. Kentucky and Michigan State are the two other nearest contenders and while both are two seeds, most people agree that they are in a different league than Duke and company. So who’s gonna end up on top of the pile?

My answer — a little guy. While all of the over-inflated one seeds and favorites bash each others heads in, they leave just enough hope for an unexpected candidate to sneak in and get their shot. My favorite “little guy” is the Tennessee Volunteers.

Okay, a two seed may not seem like a little guy. But Tennessee is far from a perennial powerhouse, and inside the program there’s surely a now-or-never mentality. The team is spearheaded by SEC player of the year Grant Williams, super senior Admiral Schofield, and their floor general, Jordan Bone. Schofield and Bone landed on the first and second all-SEC teams respectively, but the playmaking for Tennessee does not stop there. Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden both average over 10 points per game. Kyle Alexander is an elite shot-blocker and protects the rim for the Vols.

With all of this talent, how in the world is Tennessee a “little guy”? No one thinks they can do it because their success has came from a conference considered watered down and weak. Success in the SEC means a lot less than in the Big Ten or ACC due to Kentucky and Florida being below expectations this year.

To some degree, winners win. Sure, a team with a 29-5 record from the Ivy League may not be the best candidate to grab an underdog championship, but a 29-5 record from the SEC is a different story. The Vols have claimed two out of three wins against Kentucky, and beat a number one seed in Gonzaga. Tennessee has the talent to run with anybody in the country.

As we saw last year in the Virginia-UMBC classic, talent is not everything in the land of March Madness. It’s also about luck, who comes in hot, and who’s got the guts to do something incredible. Luckily, the Vols open against Colgate and it would take a gaudy amount of luck to knock Tennessee out early.

Tennessee are heads and shoulders above second round opponent candidates Iowa and Cincinnati, and could handle Purdue or Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Vols gather that much momentum, senior leadership and playmaking could easily guide them past the Elite Eight and into the Final Four.

Moral of the story: just because the bracket this year seems extremely top heavy doesn’t mean you have to give in and make the same picks everyone else does. March always caters to a couple of underdogs, and it’s seldom that the Final Four is all one seeds. The teams that succeed have a catalyst as a star, enough composure and leadership to stay glued when most become unglued, and of course, the magic of March.

The Vols seem to have all of the above, which is why I will vouch for the team that wears those ugly orange-and-white pregame pants.