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Tennessee’s greatest attribute doesn’t even wear a Vols jersey

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Tennessee’s most dangerous weapon in March won’t be Dalton Knecht or any of the talented players that secured up a regular season SEC Championship on Wednesday against South Carolina. The Vols’ greatest strength is their versatility.

The Vols proved that once again in a 66-59 win in Columbia that they can slow things down, speed things up, play team ball or feed that Knecht guy. It all depends on what the Vols need that particular night. So far, no matter what has been demanded, the Vols, who are 24-6, have almost always answered. Just look at the last four games. 

The Vols beat Texas A&M with an all-around scoring night, beat Auburn with a huge night from Knecht, beat Alabama with a comeback win and, against South Carolina, wrapped up the run with a win over the No. 16 Gamecocks in a game with a more defensive feel.  In other words, pick your poison and the Vols can serve it up.

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“They have a good team, they have an experienced team,” South Carolina coach LaMont Paris said after the loss to the Vols. “Vets, tough, they’ve got a prolific scorer. At least one. I don’t want to minimize anyone else’s contributions on their side of the ball, but at least one prolific scorer. It’s just hard.”

And it’s not going to get easier for Tennessee’s opponents. The Vols will close the regular season with Kentucky, who the Vols beat in Lexington last month, at Thompson-Boling Arena before heading into postseason play, in which Tennessee will be a heavy favorite to go deep in the SEC and NCAA Tournament. That’s when the “Barnes” talk will crop up again.

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Barnes certainly hasn’t had the kind of success he’d like in the tournament, just one Final Four bid in those 800-plus wins. However, Barnes has an advantage he’s never had before in his career. Whatever the team, he can match them in March, with style and talent. If the Vols don’t advance far in the NCAA Tournament, it will be a head scratcher, because this Tennessee team seems equipped to handle just about any scenario and survive. At least that has been the case to this point. March may be a different story, but if the Vols don’t advance, a lack of versatility won’t be the reason why.

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