By Josh Ward | @Josh_Ward
The entire country has taken notice of Tennessee’s basketball program.
The Vols deserve plenty of attention. They’re the No. 1 team in the nation and currently riding a 14-game winning streak, with the team’s only loss this season coming in overtime against Kansas in November.
It’s not just the success that Tennessee is having that’s created so much conversation. It’s also the fun.
Tennessee has a pregame dunk-and-jump routine that went viral as soon as it hit social media earlier this month.
Let’s go gentlemen pic.twitter.com/PAAkwShEH9
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) January 12, 2019
“It’s kind of trending now,” Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner said, “and we didn’t even mean for it to be. We just did it just having fun and being silly. My teammates are fun and silly and always coming up with new stuff, and I love being around them.”
Other teams loved the pregame ritual, too, and decided to take part.
It’s become popular across college basketball, and on Sunday it showed up in the NBA.
Dwyane Wade led the charge for the Miami Heat, which happens to have former Tennessee basketball player Josh Richardson on the roster and former UT athletic trainer Brandon Gilliam on staff.
“We’re paying homage to Tennessee with them, so it’s a great thing,” Wade said Sunday night. “It’s a wave on the internet and I’m just glad we could be a part of it.”
Being part of the experience is what makes Tennessee basketball special right now.
The team is playing at a high level; the players are personable; the gameday experience at Thompson-Boling Arena is exciting.
Tennessee basketball games have become must-see events.
Don’t discount the importance of the timing of Tennessee’s success in basketball.
Tennessee’s football team just ended the 2018 season with a 5–7 record, finishing in last place in the SEC East for a second consecutive year.
What makes the football situation even worse is the lack of interest from fans. The Vols’ average capacity at Neyland Stadium this season was 77,906, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, leaving an average of 25,000 unused seats per game.
Tennessee’s rise in basketball couldn’t have come at a better time. The entire athletic department needed a boost, and Vols basketball has provided it.
This isn’t to imply everything will be perfect for Tennessee the rest of the way. The Vols’ winning streak won’t last forever, and in a tournament sport, anything can happen in the end.
No matter the end result, it shouldn’t take away from the experience. Enjoy the ride while it happens. All you have to do is follow Tennessee’s lead.