JOE BIDDLE: Vols after SEC title

APTOPIX SEC Arkansas Tennessee Basketball_493355

Tennessee’s Jordan Bone, left, and Arkansas’ Daryl Macon dive after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament Saturday, March 10, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Oooh, Hogs. Where, oh where, was that 40 minutes of Hell?

This was perhaps the Tennessee basketball team’s finest hour of the season. They got out to a quicksilver start and never were challenged by Arkansas. The Vols placed a balanced team on the floor, winning the semifinal game against the Hogs, 84-66.

Admiral Schofield led the Vols with 16 points, seven rebounds and hit both 3-point attempts while dishing out an assist.

“We were mentally tough,’’ Schofield said in the postgame interview. “We know who we are. It’s March. Games come down to one or two points.’’

The Vols were rewarded with a game against Kentucky in Sunday’s high noon SEC Tournament title game.

They will have to duplicate their game against Arkansas to beat Kentucky, no stranger to cutting down the nets in SEC Tournament championship games.

The Vols have come a long way from the Media Days ranking of 13 of 14 teams in the SEC preseason.

As for playing Kentucky, Schofield warned: “The biggest thing is we can’t go in with the mindset that we beat them twice.’’

They are a lock for the 68-team NCAA bracket. Bracketologist Jerry Palm has the Vols a 3-seed in the South Region. ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi had the Vols as a 3-seed playing 14-seed Bucknell in the first round.

They will be tested to repeat their hot start against Arkansas. They hit 76 percent from the field in the first half. They blocked seven shots and went on to hit 50 percent for the game.

Sophomore guard Jordan Bone, who played at Brentwood Academy, was sizzling Saturday. Bone missed only three field goals in 11 attempts against the Hogs. Three of Bone’s 3-pointers of four attempts hit the mark.

Vols Coach Rick Barnes was honored as SEC Coach of the Year, but this will be a feather in the Vols’ hats if they could beat Kentucky. The Wildcats have owned this postseason for years.

This game will be played in St. Louis, a city the Cats rarely play in for a championship. When the SEC Tournament was held in Atlanta frequently, the fans dubbed Atlanta “Catlanta.’’ On Sunday in Atlanta the championship game had nothing but blue in the Georgia Dome.

The Vols know what they will face Sunday.

Kentucky has matured this season and Coach John Calipari’s team will be heavily favored.

“We can’t let them play in space,’’ Schofield said of Kentucky.

March Madness is here. Crazy things happen.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee State Hall of Fame. Contact him at

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