Happiness – for now – is Sweet 16 

Marvin Westwestwords

Happiness is surviving disaster, watering down the coach in celebration and moving on to the Sweet 16.

Tennessee was the best team in the country, No. 1 again, for a half on Sunday.

Tennessee was bad, inexplicably bad, worse than 0-18 Vanderbilt, for the second half.

Tennessee was tougher than old boot leather in the overtime victory over Iowa. Grant Williams took ownership. He dominated – six points, a spectacular pass from a double-team for a Jordan Bone 3-pointer and a decisive strip of a Hawkeye who thought he had just claimed a dramatic rebound.

Williams works hard at being good – and different. Asked to describe the joy and satisfaction, Grant said, “I feel like a fifth-grader who just ate Skittles.”

That is a record. Nobody ever said that.

Admiral Schofield had a record-setting remark, too. The Friday shooting star had a long Sunday rest on the bench with four fouls, but Rick Barnes was ready to send him back into action. The Admiral put team ahead of self and said the coach should stay with Kyle Alexander, that the big guy could do a better job on defense.

Could be Barnes was a little bit surprised by the total unselfishness. Schofield is a gladiator.

The coach said the Admiral said, “Leave Kyle in the game, leave Kyle in.”

Barnes said more: “With four fouls, he knew they were going to come right at him, and he said, ‘Coach, I can’t guard the way I need to guard, and I’m going to foul, so you’ve got to leave Kyle in.’

“That was his call.”

Admiral Schofield became an enthusiastic cheerleader.

This is the stuff of champions. There is no line in the box score for senior leadership, but everybody on the team can see it and feel it when it emerges. Schofield scored 17 in the first half. He was a ringleader in destroying the Hawkeyes.

The Admiral was not so good after intermission, but he certainly wasn’t the worst problem. He just accumulated the most fouls.

In fact, the Vols fell apart. They missed eight of their first nine shots. They passed poorly and handled the ball with ineptness. Iowa had all the momentum.

To make a bad matter worse, the Vols had to endure an obvious error by an official. Lamonte Turner blocked a 3-point shot. Tennessee recovered the ball and went streaking away on a fast break. Very late and 35 feet behind the play, the whistle sounded.

Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon was awarded three free throws. He hit three. The third tied the score. Seven-eighths of the audience thought that was wonderful.

All Turner said was “all ball.” Barnes kept his composure. The Vols resumed the battle. Eventually, they won the war.

Caution: Careful with tall talk about the Final Four. It is two wins away. I guarantee neither foe will be easy. If Tennessee plays well, it may defeat Purdue.

The Boilermakers destroyed defending national champion Villanova by 26. The Boilermakers have one of the best scorers in the country. Carsen Edwards, supposedly in a slump, got 42 in his latest outing. He hit nine of 16 3-point attempts.

Purdue has a really big man guarding the goal, 7-3 Matt Haarms. He led the Big Ten in blocked shots.

What Purdue doesn’t have is an all-wet coach. Barnes is very serious about basketball, but he has another side, a limited sense of humor. He actually smiled (a little bit) about the Vols pouring water all over him in the happy postgame dressing room.

“My suit got soaked. I got soaked. When my hair gets wet, it don’t look that good.”

Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is [email protected].

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