|ESPN.com: Dick Vitale||[Print without images]|
Bruce Pearl and the Tennessee Volunteers had a very short stay at the Big Dance. Now the question is will the embattled coach have another chance to lead the Vols to the NCAAs next year?
Tennessee's athletic director, Mike Hamilton, spoke earlier this week and said he was not sure if Pearl would be back. The timing of his comments was horrendous, especially since Hamilton told me earlier this season that he would support Pearl.
to me, those comments ruined his kids' chances to compete in the game against the Michigan Wolverines. Pearl and the players can deny it had an impact, but psychologically it had to have been in the back of the minds of the players. Tennessee's 30-point loss to Michigan was stunning when you consider its previous largest margin of defeat, which was 13 against College of Charleston.
Tobias Harris, who carried the Vols with 19 points in a hard-fought first half, was shut down in the second half. Michigan came out strong after intermission, outscoring Tennessee, which made just six field goals in second half, 42-16. It was a brilliant second-half showing by Michigan, but I really thought this was going to be a very competitive game.
It did not help that the Vols as a team hit 3 of 18 trifecta attempts. Don't tell me Scotty Hopson, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were not hurt by the discussion of Pearl's future -- the trio combined shot 3-of-17 from the field.
But let's not take anything away from Michigan. John Beilein's team deserves a lot of credit for the impressive victory. Zack Novak was key for the blowout-city performance. He posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards.
This Wolverines team played Kansas and Syracuse close in nonleague play. It has been a turnaround season for Beilein and company after finishing 15-17 a season ago. Now Michigan moves on to face Duke in what should be an emotional game based on the recent "Fab Five" documentary and subsequent back-and-forth discussion.
Now the attention in Knoxville will be on Pearl and Hamilton. The Vols coach has admitted he made mistakes and has apologized so many times. The school and Hamilton have waited this long and kept Pearl as their coach. I don't feel one game should determine his future.
Since Tennessee has taken so long in this matter, the school should consider keeping him. He did pay a hefty price with an eight-game SEC suspension and large financial penalty.
This is a country based on giving people second chances. You have seen it many times in sports.
The NCAA still has to rule on the situation, so we will have to wait to see what happens. Michigan moves on in the tournament, while Pearl and the Vols, just short of the Final Four last season, are sent packing in disappointing fashion.