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Vols Keep Playing In The NIT

The Tennessee basketball team entered last night’s first-round NIT game with a four-game losing streak in that postseason event.  Not anymore.

Cuonzo Martin’s top-seeded Vols dispatched tiny Savannah State 65-51 last night without the aid of their top player, forward Jeronne Maymon.  Maymon — a second-team All-SEC selection — suffered a bruised knee in the SEC Tournament and will be evaluated day-to-day moving forward.

The question for any team entering the NIT is whether or not they even want to be there.  Judging from UT’s defensive effort and their fights for loose balls, the Volunteers definitely want to keep playing.  Junior Skylar McBee admitted as much after the contest:

“Anytime you’re playing in March, I think it’s special.  We’re in this to win, no matter what tournament it is and no matter what game it is.”

The next game for Tennessee should be considerably tougher.  Middle Tennessee State — winners over Marshall last night and Sun Belt Conference regular season champs — will be the next squad to visit Knoxville.  MTSU has an RPI nearly 30 slots higher than UT’s and they beat UCLA and Ole Miss during the regular season.  They also put a scare into Vanderbilt before losing by seven. 

The Blue Raiders are the #4 seed in UT’s region and losing to an in-state foe at home — even a pretty good one — would be a bad way to end a season that turned out a lot better than the preseason experts had projected.  Vol fans need to hope Maymon’s knee will be ready to go when the NIT decides to send MTSU their way.  (NIT second-round dates are yet to be determined.)



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