Usually the biggest separator between Memphis and us is the 393 miles you must travel from Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville to the FedEx Forum in Memphis. But this season is different. Although we only have 2 less wins, a better strength of schedule and wins vs. two top 10 teams, the feelings around our teams couldn’t be further apart. At 11-2, Memphis is feeling good about themselves. At 9-4, we feel like we’ve been punched in the gut time and time again for the last 3 weeks. We have something to prove.
I wish we could just tip it up right now. Usually, when it’s Memphis week it’s because I can’t wait for the lights to come on and for our guys to get out on the floor and compete against this in-state rival. But this year I just want to see how our guys respond to the thick adversity we have been treading in. The last 3 weeks we’ve continued to slowly sink but there is optimism throughout our entire program after a forthcoming team meeting in which a lot of players’ and coaches’ honest and blunt thoughts were revealed to one another. But words are just the first step. Most people know what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to handle different situations that arise within our lives. However, few people are willing to CONSISTENTLY make the necessary sacrifices and put in the work to be successful. Will we?
To get this win Wednesday we are going to have to have a special defensive and rebounding effort. Memphis has a roster full of really good attacking guards whose talents shine in an up-tempo and open floor game. Our guys have been working their butts off the last two days at defending their offensive tendencies. It’s hard to simulate their exact speed and athleticism with our scout team but the four guards and one post we put in blue scout jerseys did a great job of being in constant attack mode. We can defend it great all day in practice, but practice is only preparation for a game. If when the lights come on we choose to not sprint back on defense, be out of stance and not stunt while in help defense, play our man after the catch, not rotate urgently and finish EVERY possession off with checkouts doing it right in practice means nothing. Did you know that since we have been here the team that won the battle of the boards won the game?
As far as our rotations and offensive game plan we have made a few more adjustments in preparation for this game. A shrunk line up (unless there is foul trouble) and play call list is planned. However, if a guy who is in the lineup chooses not to play as hard as they possibly can while they are on the floor, they very well may be put to the bench for the remainder of the game. Why? Because their actions are a slap in the face to their teammates, their coaches and our supporters. All we ask is for our guys to play hard and focus on the things they can control– like their effort and energy– nothing else. Champions, winners, successful teams/people dictate outcomes and what their opponents do because they are the urgent ones. There is very little luck involved because they have earned and will create their own destiny. The other side of that coin is that losers also create their own destiny with their lack of effort and urgency. What’s the impression our play will provide Wednesday night? How do we want to be remembered? Everything we set out to achieve is still in reaching distance but a change when the lights come on needs to start vs. Memphis. We need to play every second of this game with unrelenting passion and urgency to begin rising out of this quicksand of complacency. But as you are sick of reading similar posts for the last couple weeks, I’M SICK OF WRITING THEM! Our actions need to start reflecting our words! Let’s get this one!!!!!
I hope to see you wearing your Orange Wednesday night Vol Fans!