— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 4, 2018
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Dane Bradshaw sees Tennessee basketball through a lens like few others, so it was only appropriate he was on the call for the Vols’ historic victory on Saturday.
Tennessee men’s basketball was playing for a championship in Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time in the building’s 30-year history, and the Vols delivered with a 66-61 victory that led to a rousing celebration.
“I’v been part of some huge games in there as a player, as an alum and as a commentator, but that’s a scene I’ve never seen for men’s basketball there,” said Bradshaw, who starred for UT from 2003-07 and was selected as one of the Vols’ top 50 basketball players of all time.
“I told Admiral Schofield before our interview, ‘Man, I’m jealous of you, we had some great teams during my tenure at Tennessee, but we never cut down nets, we never won a championship in front of the home crowd,” he said. “I was part of court stormings, but we never had that many fans hanging out after the game to watch net cutting, T-shirts and hats handed out.”
Bradshaw said the Vols’ players need to make sure to soak it all in.
“I hope the guys don’t take it for granted, these moments come and go fast, and there are plenty of great games they will have in their careers,” Bradshaw said, “but that was a game that will be remembered forever and stick with them forever.”
Bradshaw was a part of Tennessee’s basketball turnaround when Bruce Pearl arrived for the 2005-06 season. Ironically enough, the first signature win was a 95-78 Vols’ road victory at a No. 6-ranked Texas team coached by Rick Barnes.
Bradshaw admits, he didn’t expect Barnes’ current Vols to win the league title.
“I thought they could be one of those bubble teams at the end of the year,” Bradshaw said. “For them to do this in a year that’s most likely to be record-setting year in the SEC is another part of this incredible story for Tennessee basketball.”
Here are four other observations from Bradshaw, whose basketball IQ from his playing days has translated into him becoming one of the top commentators on television:
Favorite Vols’ 5-man rotation
(Jordan Bone, Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Admiral Scofield, Grant Williams)
Dane Bradshaw: “My favorite lineup has been when they have two point guards on the court, with Bone and Turner, because you’ve got Turner’s ability to score, and you’ve got Bowden on the wing ,and whether he’s shooting the ball well or not, he’s defending his tail off.
“I like Schofield at the four and Williams at the five, and while that’s not the starting lineup, I think that is their best lineup right now.
“What happens is Schofield starts at the three, and you put your three man on him he’s going to post him up and go to work down there. You play him at the four, and now he’s gone to step out there on the perimeter, and now your four man has to go out there and try to guard a perimeter-oriented player, and he’s really become a huge mismatch.”
Team staying motivated
Dane Bradshaw: “Coach Barnes has done such a terrific job, we’ve all seen how he finds the one thing they aren’t doing well after each game to talk about, and it has been key to keep them grounded. Coach Barnes has done as good a job as you could ask for in that aspect.
“I was at SEC Media Day in Nashville and saw Schofield, Williams and coach Barnes, and man, they were leaving that place with a smile on their face. They were grinning that the media had given them that gift of picking them 13th and it would be an extra chip on the shoulder. Not only that they had something to prove, but they just had the confidence they knew they would prove people wrong with the work they did in the offseason.”
Coach of the Year
Dane Bradshaw: “I feel a little bit better about being on the fence here, because the Big 12 named co-coaches of the year. You have two teams, both underdogs, both dealing with different types of adversity, and they are neck and neck in the RPI.
“It’s to too easy to say Auburn won head-to-head so give the nod to (Bruce) Pearl. Barnes’ team was picked 13th in the preseason and had even bigger odds at the start of the season, but then Auburn had injuries, so …. For both coaches to do it in a year where the SEC is arguably the best its been in a decade, I just can’t pick one.”
Admiral Schofield’s emergence
Dane Bradshaw: “When he takes that full-court charge on Yante Maten the crowd goes nuts, and then when he buries that shot, the dagger at the end, it was the same. The way he created the home court environment with those superstar type plays, there’s a certain balance you don’t see. Usually it’s one guy doing one thing, another guy do ing the other, and he was doing all of them. That was what got the crowd on their feet more than anything, it was his plays more than anyone else.
“Then if you look at that Mississippi State game, Grant Williams plays 30 minutes and takes three shots. Schofield is going to have to buy dinner for Grant, because Schofield is not getting up 18 shots without all the attention that’s being put on Grant Williams, so they have been a great duo in that aspect. He’s going to make Williams better because teams are going to realize we can’t just make Schofield and the others beat us — because they will — so now they can’t give too much attention to Williams.”