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UT’s Martin Not Bummed By NIT Appearance… This Year

Tennessee saw a six-year NCAA Tournament streak come to an end yesterday, but Cuonzo Martin isn’t complaining about it.  That’s because he knows that he took over a program in disarray.

Bruce Pearl had shockingly turned the Vol program into a national power, but through a series of bad decisions he brought the roof down on himself over what would have been — if handled properly — a secondary NCAA violation. 

In turn, Martin was left with a thin roster comprised of players who — for the most part — hadn’t played much or hadn’t played well under Pearl last season.  On top of that, Martin had to get those players to buy in to a completely different style of basketball than the one they’d signed on to play.

That starting point has apparently helped Martin deal with the fact that his team isn’t going to the Big Dance:

“I go back to the fact that it’s a body of work.  We got out of the gates slow, did a great job down the stretch (and) for me as a coach, I can’t be upset with our guys because I saw the progress they made.  Unfortunately we didn’t do the job up front, and I say unfortunate because we didn’t win games.  (The players) were also learning in the system trying to find their way how to compete and how to play hard, so it’s hard as a coach to be upset with your guys.

Now you bring me a year from now and we’re standing here and that happens, it’d be a problem.  Those guys understand the system, they know what’s expected and the level we have to play to.  Barring injury, we should be an NCAA Tournament team next year.”

There’s no danger in Martin saying that, in raising expectations for himself in 2013.  Tennessee fans will no doubt have an “NCAAs or bust” mentality next year anyway.




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