When the crew of ESPN College Gameday decided to visit the Knoxville campus for a men's game and women's game doubleheader, there were a few things they expected to be different. They probably didn't think the Vols would be 0-2 in conference play coming in. They might not have known to pack their gloves and scarves for the unusual Tennessee snowstorm. And they surely didn't expect to see Tony Jones in an orange blazer for the tipoff of the game against in-state rival Vanderbilt.
Nevertheless, all of those things were true on Saturday afternoon. And for Tennessee, a rough week ended with a magical come-from-behind win. The Volunteers rallied from a 17-point first half deficit to defeat the Commodores 67-64.
And Tennessee needed it not just for what it has been through so far this season, but also for what it has coming up. The Vols must play at Georgia on Tuesday night against a Bulldogs team that has already knocked off SEC favorite Kentucky. UT also still has five more conference games without the services of suspended coach Bruce Pearl, and a trip to UConn next Saturday.
The good news for Tennessee is that the team responded to the bright lights and big stage of a national telecast in a big time SEC game. UT has proven similar things in big games against Villinova and Pittsburgh. The bad news is that Dick Vitale, Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, and Bob Knight won't be on hand for every game. The Vols continue to have the big stage figured out. But until they win consistently in the "lesser" matchups, they will be left out of the biggest stage of all in March.