With its 73-61 win over Florida on Saturday, No. 1 Tennessee won its 18th-straight game to improve to 22-1 on the season and 10-0 in SEC play.
The win over the Gators set the record for Tennessee’s longest regular SEC season winning streak, giving them 14-straight conference victories dating back to last season. Tennessee’s 10-0 start in SEC play is also tied for the Vols’ best start ever in conference play since the 1976-77 season.
Tennessee’s program-record 18 consecutive wins is not only the longest active winning streak in all of college basketball, but it also marks the longest winning streak of Rick Barnes’ 32-year coaching career.
“The fact is they’ve put their work in, they’ve done what they need to do,” Barnes said of his team and the winning streak. “You want them to enjoy it more than they feel relieved, to be honest.”
Of late, though, the winning streak hasn’t felt like fun. Or at least, it hasn’t been as much fun as one might think.
“We have to get back to enjoying winning,” senior forward Admiral Schofield said following Saturday’s win. “We haven’t been in this position before. It’s just been feeling like a business for us.”
Granted, this isn’t a huge problem at the end of the day. It’s not even really a problem. But on the same note, this is a once in a lifetime type of run the Vols are on. Every moment of it should be cherished.
“When you’re in the middle of a really competitive year, how do you enjoy that moment knowing you’ve got to let it go quickly and get onto the next one?” Barnes stated. “The enjoyment of it can’t last long, because you’ve got to get back to the grind.
“We’re also working to accomplish something. Everybody is going to go about it their own way.”
Everyone does have different mindsets when going about trying to accomplish a larger goal. In their own way, everyone does things differently. Which is why it’s always good to listen to a perspective from the outside looking in.
That’s exactly what Rick Barnes and his staff received when former UCLA head coach Steve Alford paid a visit to the Vols over the weekend.
“He (Alford) came in and visited with us,” Barnes said. “He actually made a big point of that. He said, ‘I’m just telling you, you ought to enjoy it until you have to get onto the next one, have fun with it.’
“I do think our guys do enjoy it. That’s not so much in my makeup. I’ve always felt like when it’s all over, all said and done, you go back in your mind through it. My enjoyment really comes from everyday going out and seeing how much better we can be.”
And who can blame Barnes for feeling that way? The veteran coach had multiple great teams at Texas fizzle out late in the regular season or in the NCAA Tournament. Quite simply, Barnes doesn’t want this historic Tennessee basketball team to be added to his list of teams that have come up short.
“The tough part is you’ve got to let it go real quick,” Barnes stated. “That’s the problem when you’re competitive. Everybody else can probably enjoy it longer than those that are really in the arena every day fighting, because they’ve got to let it go quickly and get onto the next one.”
No. 1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) will be back on the court Wednesday night as it welcomes South Carolina (12-11, 6-4 SEC) to Thompson-Boling Arena for a 6:30 PM tip-off.