While the Jayhawks tipped off against the Volunteers on Sunday, I began reading Bill Simmons' new book The Book of Basketball on an airplane flying to Chicago. The first chapter of the book is simply titled "The Secret", and goes into detail The Secret, told to Simmons by Isiah Thomas (at a topless pool in Las Vegas, no less). According to Isiah, and supported by Simmons throughout the rest of the chapter, "The Secret of basketball is that it's not about basketball". You can question the validity. It doesn't seem to make sense. But before you do, just take a quick look at Sunday's game.
On one hand, you have the number one ranked team in the country. By most accounts, the best team in the country. Taking subjectivity out of the picture, you have a top five PG, a top five C and a top five freshman in the country. You have a host of other players who would start on most other teams playing supporting roles.
On the other hand, you have six scholarship players. Six. You have the coach's son playing 10 minutes. You have the best player kicked off the team four days prior.
On paper, what you have is a mismatch. However, basketball isn't played on paper. And The Secret says it's not even about basketball. With four of their best players gone, Tennessee had no one to turn to but the remaining players on the squad. They banded together, took on a disrespected attitude, and set out to make some noise.
They didn't need Tyler Smith or Melvin Goins or Brian Williams or Cameron Tatum. They just needed themselves. In essence, they discovered The Secret. Despite losing talent, the Vols are a better team than they were just two weeks ago. They get it. It's not about basketball. It's why they outplayed and outscored the #1 team in the country Sunday afternoon.
The question remains, however, if Kansas will pick up The Secret. If not, we're destined to go home losers in March.
Player-by-player game reviews will be skipped for this game recap since I was not able to watch the game, being on an airplane and all.