Co-written by Sam Forman
This week on Rocky Topics, Cody McClure and Sam Forman discuss how the Lady Vols’ loss of Isabelle Harrison to a torn ACL could impact a potential run to the Final Four.
FORMAN: Before the loss of Isabelle Harrison, I would have guaranteed 100 percent that the Lady Vols would return to the promised land that is the Final Four. While they may have less of a chance, the Lady Vols can still make it to Tampa and return to the Final Four this year. They still have plenty of offense without Harrison in the line up. Jaime Nared has come on to play a key role for Tennessee in their last few games – even before the injury to Harrison. The Lady Vols still have an abundance of players capable of three point shooting. A team that can consistently knock down shots behind the arc could be dangerous when tournament time comes.
MCCLURE: Tennessee has made strides this season, finally putting a veteran squad with size on the floor in the post-Pat Summit era. They have several quality wins over top ten teams on their resume. On a good night, I think the Lady Vols can play with anybody in the country – besides UCONN. ESPN’s bracketologist Charlie Creme currently has Tennessee as a No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma City region, but the bracket has not been updated since their loss to South Carolina. That loss to South Carolina can be attributed to the Lady Vols being out-rebounded and dominated on the glass – an area in which Harrison’s presence certainly would have helped. Another loss to the Gamecocks in the SEC tournament almost certainly puts the Lady Vols as a No. 2 seed, but the seeding is not necessarily the problem. The problem, assuming they are in the Oklahoma City region, is a potential matchup with Baylor – a team that averages 46.1 rebounds per game, good for third in the country.
FORMAN: I will give you the fact that Tennessee may be a No. 2 seed after the loss to South Carolina on Monday. If you look at Creme’s bracket, it has Baylor as the No. 2 seed setting up that match up anyway. You can make a good case that if Tennessee is a No. 2 seed, then they will be the highest ranked No. 2 seed. Yes, Baylor is a team that can give the Lady Vols problems. However, Nina Davis is really the only offensive weapon for the Bears – averaging 20.8 points per game. While Tennessee may not have anyone averaging that many, they do have more players averaging double digits in scoring than Baylor. The Lady Vols also have more firepower off the bench. Though it is a likely match up, there is no guarantee Baylor and Tennessee will even meet up before the Final Four. For this Lady Vols team, all it takes is getting hot at the right time. Let us not forget they found themselves in almost the same spot last year and got hot, and they where nowhere near as complete of a team.
MCCLURE: They also lost by double digits to Maryland in the Sweet 16 last year. I am actually arguing that they will go further in this year’s tournament. I don’t think there are many teams that can beat Tennessee, especially in their projected region. They are more talented and deeper than last year’s team. And yes, they have some shooters that will give Baylor problems should that match up arise – which it likely will. However, without Harrison, the Lady Vols lack the size to keep them in the game with Baylor. Having great shooters is nice, but there is always a possibility of a cold night when shots just don’t fall. A reliable, consistent “big” presence is a better formula for winning in the NCAA tournament. Baylor is very familiar with contributing “bigs.” I do think the Lady Vols will get to the Elite Eight, but the Final Four is not happening.
Edited by Maggie Jones