The Underdog Vols Strike Again

By Jeff Lippman - March 18, 2008

During last year's NCAA Tournament run for eventual national champion Tennessee, the Lady Vols managed to fly under the radar all the way to the title.

Which team ended Marist and Ole Miss' magical tournament runs last season? That's right, Tennessee. The media attention went to the darlings, but the spoils of victory went to the Lady Vols.

Here, I wrote about it: The Underdog Vols

Perhaps it was the fact that Tennessee sidled through the tournament without much hype. After all, Duke was the favorite, Maryland was the defending champs and UNC and LSU has been there before. Maybe coach Pat Summitt used that to her advantage. Fly under the radar and quietly beat the snot out of the opponents you face until there are no opponents left standing.

And now amazingly, after year in which the Lady Vols were No. 1 and looked indestructible for a good chunk of the season, Summitt has the Lady Vols as underdogs once again.

Alright, maybe they aren't underdogs in the sense that they aren't supposed to win some games. Yeah, pretty much everyone expects Candace Parker to be a Final Four participant in her final season.

But the ESPN analysts, five highly knowledgeable and respected voices in the sport of women's basketball, picked Connecticut to win it all. Five votes for Geno's Huskies. That's gotta sting for Summitt.

Or does it?

I think the Lady Vols thrive off being told they aren't going to win. It makes Candace Parker play better. It makes Alexis Hornbuckle turn on her attitude and her game.

"It's motivation for us. I am excited they didn't pick Tennessee," Parker said when told of the analysts' decisions. "We still have more respect to earn, and we know that. It doesn't matter what the experts or anyone else says, we as a team will be the ones who determine who wins."

For what it's worth, ESPN, I'm on your side. I think UConn tops the Lady Vols in the title game. Of course, I didn't think Tennessee would win last year, either.

Connecticut is a great team. Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles are two of the best players in the entire country, and they aren't even the best players on their own team. Maya Moore, just a freshman, but one that plays like she's been doing it with ease for years, might go on to become the greatest UConn Husky of them all.

But, then again, there is one very advantageous weapon that Tennessee possesses and UConn does not, and that is Candace Parker. The best player playing in the game today and the national player of the year, in mine and everyone else's opinion.

And now the Lady Vols have something to prove, too. Way to go, ESPN analysts, Geno is going to be pissed.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 12:07 PM on March 18, 2008

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