Monday, November 28, 2016

Everybody's a winner when Tennessee's in your gym; just ask Va. Tech, JMU

If it seems like yesterday that we wrote a post about Tennessee, then maybe it was, but hey, we're at it again 'cause in case you didn't see Kenny Brooks' Hokies pulled off the upset and beat the Lady Vols 67-63 in Cassell on Sunday afternoon behind 24 points from Chanette Hicks. That's ACC co-Player of the Week and espnW national player of the week Hicks.

As an aside, we've already lamented in a tweet that it makes no sense to us why the Lady Vols remain  in the rankings at No. 22. With wins over East Tennessee, Navy and James Madison (and we're surely not knocking the Dukes) and losses to Penn State and Tech, the Lady Vols have not done enough to prove themselves to be among the top 25 teams in this young season yet. And that is what the poll is measuring, right?

But alas, we digress or do we? Tennessee is still ranked because, well, it's Tennessee. Hicks is player of the week because, well, all those points and eight steals to boot came against Tennessee. And that name, even minus Pat Summitt, who this game so sorely misses, holds mystique that just about every other Division I team that doesn't have UConn across its jersey, lacks. It sells tickets. It grabs headlines. It fills gyms. It gets your league's and ESPN's attention when player of the week honors come rolling around. And we must say, that's pretty cool.

JMU didn't beat Tennessee, but the Convo was electric for almost the entire 40 minutes during a heckuva game to open the season. And you know what? Credit Coach Sean O'Regan for making the call that turned into a home-and-home series, one he didn't anticipate. Tennessee was looking for a game. JMU had an opening. Done deal.

We have to believe Old Dominion fans have a bit of envy this morning. Hicks is a local kid and Tennessee used to be a regular in Norfolk until 2012, but thus farm Lady Monarchs fans have been treated to two MEAC teams to open the season (no knock on the Spartans, either or Hampton, which crosses the river for a tiff next month). These are fans used to seeing the best teams in the nation take a turn at playing in Norfolk, including Tennessee every other year.

Wins against the Lady Vols? Well, Brooks can brag about being 1-0 against them at Tech, but usually they're pretty hard to come by. But know what? You want Tennessee on your schedule because no matter the records or rankings, this sport has two glamour teams and one of them remains the Lady Vols.

Win or lose, with Tennessee in the building, your program can't lose.

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