Tennessee Volunteers (21-7) vs. Winthrop Eagles (23-7).
When: Thursday, 2:50 p.m. ET (approx.)
Where: Greensboro, N.C.
1. Bruce Pearl = Hulk Hogan. After the Vols' huge win at Rupp Arena over Kentucky, Pearl instructed his players to act like they'd "been there before." And then ripped his shirt off, in what forward Dane Bradshaw described as "wrestler style," in the locker room. It's possible he's insane. He openly aspires to be the most hated coach in the league, and he was thrown out of his son's high school hoops game for heckling the ref. Not to mention sweating through an entire suit at Florida, which wasn't so much insane as revolting. Even if Deadspin sees Pearl as nWo-era Hogan-as-heel (which may be fitting, considering Hulk's nWo partner, Kevin Nash, was a Vol), we see anyone who, in his first season, coaches a team picked to finish fifth of six in the SEC East to the championship as a Andre the Giant-body-slamming Hulkster.
2. Vols Have Disco Fever. The glory days of Vols hoops were back in the go-go 70s, when coach Ray Mears wore blindingly orange jackets and Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld headlined the swaggering Bernie & Ernie Show. That's really the only time the Vols were ever any good at all (there's a reason the men play on a court bearing the Lady Vols coach's oversized signature). So how to get things back on track? Have the coach bring back the garish sportscoat (with the tasteful addition of orange suspenders) and have point guard C.J. Watson wear a Bernie throwback in an actual game. We weren't aware you could pretend you were someone else in NCAA-sanctioned play, but there you have it. The Vols lost that game, but that was because Allan Houston was in attendance for the first time since leaving the Vols, and Allan Houston is an expert at losing. He's retired and still helping the Knicks lose. Or maybe that's all Isiah's doing.
3. Vols Do The Damndest Things. It's well-publicized that two Vols were recently suspended for crack possession. Putting aside the unquestionable draconian-ism of drug laws criminalizing the smoking of large quantities of rock-form cocaine in an illegally parked car, it's clear the Vols have some characters. Like Jemere Hendrix. You may remember young Jemere for being thrown off the team after throwing a punch at a football player and then fleeing (with the football player in hot pursuit) on a golf cart driven by an assistant hoops coach. Or maybe for subsequently showing up at a game wearing a white Hanes tee on which, in black Sharpie, he'd written: "MY APoLogy. I'M Sorry Team. I'M Sorry Fans. I'M Sorry Coach Pearl. I'M Sorry Mike Hamilton. I am My Brother's KEEPER." And then all his teammates' numbers. Which is just awesome. — Houston Goddard
1. Gregg Marshall Is The Best Coach You've Never Heard Of. Marshall has compiled a 165-77 record in eight seasons and made Winthrop a dominant force in the Big South. In his first three seasons, he led the Eagles to a threepeat in regular season conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances. Success like this usually means a future coaching job in the SEC or Big East, right? Well, Marshall recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at Winthrop through 2015, giving you an idea of how much the university invests in the program and its coach. All six of Winthrop s appearances (including this year's) have happened under Marshall s tenure.
2. But ... Winthrop Has Never Won An NCAA Tournament Game. In fact, no Big South team has ever gotten higher than a 14 seed from the selection committee. This year the Eagles finished 23-7 and won both the Big South regular and tournament titles. They also start five veterans, all who helped to give Gonzaga a run for its money in the first round of last year s tournament. In other words, another lousy seed.
3. Winthrop University ... The Harvard Of The South! Well, if Harvard were a public school. The Princeton Review ranks Winthrop as one of the south s top public universities, offering a variety of degrees in the liberal arts. A quick scan through their music s Web page tells me they most likely kick Notre Dame s butt in music and many other fine arts areas, meaning my family could have saved $20,000 a year by sending me to Winthrop instead of Notre Dame and making me eight times the musician I am today. I'd probably have a better sex life, too. — Brandon Hollihan