Former college basketball coach and now ESPN personality Seth Greenberg takes exception to the criticism of Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes’ NCAA Tournament track record.
“I get a kick out of all of the stuff, Rick Barnes can’t win in the tournament,” Greenberg said. “He’s been to a Final Four. It’s hard to do that.”
Barnes NCAA track record has been a point of criticism from Tennessee fans and before that Texas fans along with other college basketball media.
The eighth-year Tennessee head coach is 4-4 in the NCAA Tournament as the Vols’ head coach making one trip to the Sweet 16. Barnes’ struggles to get to the second weekend of the “Big Dance” is where most of the criticism originates.
Barnes took the Longhorns to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament five times in his first 10 years in Austin including a trip to the 2003 Final Four. But since the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Barnes has made it to the Sweet 16 just once— Tennessee’s trip in 2019.
“It’s hard, man. It’s hard. It’s just hard. It’s not a seven game series. You pick a bad day to have a bad day and a wrong matchup, all those things are difficult,” Greenberg said. “The NCAA Tournament, they said the same thing about Jay Wright for a while. How’d that work out for all those guys taking snipes at him? Rick is a world class basketball coach, communicator, program builder, teacher, mentor and this could be the team that gives him the respect.”
To Greenberg’s point, plenty of successful coaches have gotten over the hump in recent years. Virginia and Tony Bennett’s pack line defense couldn’t succeed in the NCAA Tournament until they won the 2019 National Championship. Baylor’s Scott Drew “couldn’t win in the tournament” until the Bears’ won the 2021 National Championship.
More From RTI: Everything Rick Barnes Said Before Tennessee-Texas
Even Gonzaga’s Mark Few — who’s built a mid major program into one of the nation’s best and has made four Final Fours — still has a reputation for not winning the big one.
“To me, Rick is a Hall of Fame coach, just the way it is,” Greenberg said. “End of conversation. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame and he’s going to be a Hall of Fame coach because of, not a game, but his body of work and the lives that he impacted and the bridges he built for his players and the relationships that he had and the games that he won and the big games that he won.”
Barnes has been a stellar program builder everywhere he’s been in his 36-year coaching career and has had tremendous regular season and SEC Tournament success at Tennessee. The Vols won a share of the SEC regular season title in 2018 and won the SEC Tournament last spring.
Tennessee has won 21 of its last 23 SEC games and have been one of the most stable programs in the conference since the Vols’ breakout 2018 season— Barnes’ third year in Knoxville.
This year has been no different as Tennessee has climbed to No. 4 in the AP Poll thanks to a 17-3 (7-1 SEC) start to the season. No. 10 Texas and its elite backcourt will provide a sizable challenge for Tennessee Saturday in the 10th and final addition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
You can catch Greenberg on College Gameday at 11 a.m. ET Saturday while tip-off between the Vols and Longhorns is at 6:05 p.m. ET. Dave O’Brian, Dick Vitale and Kris Budden are on the call for ESPN.