The time for doom and gloom has officially arrived in Knoxville.
The Tennessee basketball program has fallen to the bottom almost as quickly as it rose to the top just a few short years ago.
Bruce Pearl's Vols are riding a three game losing streak into a manageable portion of the schedule, but those seemingly manageable games have ended up in the loss column more than a few times this season.
Tennessee sits at 15-10 with only six games remaining on the season. Two of those games will take place on the road (@ Vandy, @ South Carolina). Of the four remaining home games, one will feature a Kentucky squad that basically out-everythinged the Vols just a week ago at Rupp Arena.
Given the ever-increasing size of the ferocious looking NCAA thunder cloud that hangs over the program, you might as well go ahead and chalk up this season as a lost cause.
Whether it was Pearl's eight conference game suspension or the lack of a decent half-court offense, this season was apparently doomed from the start.
Sure, the Vols lofty RPI-rating could still get them into the NCAA tournament, but Tennessee must win at least four of these final six games. Even four wins does not a definite invite make.
The Vols are just one game ahead of South Carolina in the east--that is, one game out of dead last in the division. Tennessee plays the Gamecocks twice over the next two weeks.
Since the Vols completely laid an egg over the last three games, they should treat each of these final six contests as must-win games.
The level of play will have to be elevated to late November heights--when the Vols defeated Villanova and Pittsburgh. Watching these Vols lately, it's difficult to see that happening any time soon.
Truth is, the Vols are dangerously close to needing the SEC tournament title to make it into the field of 68 in March.
Considering Pearl's Tennessee teams haven't missed an NCAA tournament since he arrived in 2005, missing out would make this season even more forgettable than it already has been.