Everything was laid out for Tennessee basketball in March Madness. A defensive-oriented team ran into programs like the Duke Blue Devils, who play worse defense.
More importantly, the No. 1 seed in their bracket, the Purdue Boilermakers, lost in the first round, one of only two teams to ever do so. Then their Sweet 16 opponent, the Florida Atlantic Owls, went ice cold from outside.
FAU, whose offense is based off of outside shooting and interior rebounding, was a miserable 8-of-27 from beyond the arc. However, the No. 9 seed beat Tennessee basketball, a No. 4 seed, 62-55, to reach the Elite Eight.
How did they do it? Well, they cashed in on the offensive dry spells Rick Barnes teams are notorious for suffering. In this case, it happened in the first half.
UT led FAU 25-16 with four minutes to go in the half. The Vols scored two points the rest of the half and let FAU come back on them with their continued horrendous offense in the second half.
Now, it’s true that FAU worked the refs with the narrative they created dating back to Sunday, the false notion that the Vols play dirty. However, that’s not an excuse for how horrid the Vols’ offense was.
The truth is, this has been an issue for Tennessee basketball ever since Barnes arrived. His philosophy is one straight out of the “Hoosiers” playbook: dEfEnSe aNd fUnDaMeNtAlS wInS cHaMpIoNsHiPs.
For as long as Vol fans stuck in the 1950s subscribe to that notion, this is the best it’ll ever be. Given the program’s history, maybe they’ll settle for that.
In March, though, you need an offense elite enough to contend with anybody to win. That’s not what the Vols have right now.
Look, they gave up 62 points to FAU. Giving up that much is enough to win a game for a Power Five program. It’s not enough for Barnes, though.
If you are satisfied with just making the tournament as a Tennessee basketball fan, Barnes is your guy. After all, this is a football school.
On the other hand, if you think this can be a national championship school beyond just football, then it’s time to move on from Barnes and join the 21st century in men’s basketball.
Barnes’ commitment to defense and the midrange is outdated. His love for physical play is embarrassing to the level that you think he’s a gym teacher. That will never take the Vols to the next level. It’s time to accept that.