Sanning: Tennessee would do right by itself accepting an NIT invite

Cory Sanning

Fortunes haven’t exactly played out in an ideal fashion this season for Tennessee basketball, and Saturday’s loss to 17th-ranked Auburn was another example of that.

Suffering a 22-point beatdown on Senior Day, the Vols were once again reminded of just how challenging and unfortunate this year has been.

Not only did they lose their starting point guard in Lamonte Turner prior to conference play, they struggled to find any consistency once Rick Barnes and his staff were forced to integrate new pieces.

That isn’t a knock against them, either. 

Santiago Vescovi has been everything Tennessee could have asked for in terms of a midseason addition.

He can shoot, is a savvy passer and has displayed tremendous poise for a 18-year-old that had never experienced the atmosphere that the SEC provides on a daily basis.

Not only that, the struggles of transfer big man Uros Plavsic didn’t make the road much easier for Tennessee.

Not all hope is lost, however. 

While UT’s hopes of making a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament are likely toast, a trip to the National Invitation Tournament appears more and more likely as the days pass.

Would Barnes and the Vols accept if invited?

“Yes,” Barnes said following Saturday’s game. He’s not wrong, either.

While Turner and Jordan Bowden will not be on the roster at this point next season, this team would only benefit from playing more basketball, even if that means lower-level postseason competition.

Outside of a handful of players, none on next year’s roster will have experienced the magnitude of March Madness, especially the true “big dance.”

That’s not a bad thing, either. 

Experience comes with time, and this version of the Vols simply hasn’t been together long enough to click on all cylinders at the highest level. 

With a veteran coach like Barnes leading the way with guys like Desmond Oliver and Kim English on his staff, Tennessee is in good hands for the foreseeable future.

And given the class of recruits that will be flocking to campus this summer, they should have plenty of success on the horizon. 

All it takes is time and patience. 

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