With Tennessee at 17-11 and 8-7 in the SEC, there's a lot of doubt over the Volunteers' chances to make the NCAA tournament. In Friday morning's latest look at the field of 68 on CBSSports.com, our Jerry Palm doesn't have UT in the field.
Despite Cuonzo Martin guaranteeing himself a third straight above-.500 season as coach at Tennessee, there is unrest among some in the fan base. Because if the Volunteers do not make the tournament, it will mark the third straight season that's the case. The last time that happened? Back between 2002-2005, otherwise known as the final years before Bruce Pearl became head coach.
It's issues like that which have brought up the possibility of bringing Pearl back as coach, despite his ousting following a three-year NCAA show-cause punishment.
In-state rival Kevin Stallings, coach of Vanderbilt, thinks the talk of ousting Martin is ridiculous. The Tennessean reports Stallings calling those who believe Martin deserves the boot as "idiots." Tennessee hosts Vandy on Saturday.
“I think for people to speculate on his job is absurd,” Stallings said. “He's in his third year and that is ridiculous. He's doing a good job with their team. I think they're getting ready to make the NCAA tournament. It takes some time when you go in there and you have to change some things and change the way things are done.”
“It used to be in this business guys got four or five years to show what they could do,” Stallings said. “The only thing that's changed is people thinking that they ought to have more of a say in that, and then weak athletic administrations giving into that kind of pressure. Hopefully, the powers that be over at Tennessee will tune those idiots out and give (Martin) the kind of time he deserves to do the job he needs to do.”
There's no doubt that modern college coaching is much more pressurized than it was even 10 years ago. Fan bases are not as patient as they once were. No NCAA tournament appearances in three years at a major school is grounds for dismissal, according to plenty of fans. (And, to be fair, some athletic directors as well.) Not that it's right; it's just how things have escalated as college basketball's become more nationalized and the NCAA tournament's turned into Practically The Only Thing That Matters.
A home loss to Vanderbilt would be detrimental to Tennessee tourney hopes. The Vols already dropped the game in Nashville against Stallings' team earlier in February. If Martin and Tennessee did wind up parting ways, the current forecast on the biggest job openings this offseason indicate no gig would be more coveted than that one.