The song is synonymous with the event. Everybody who pays attention to March Madness can hum at least a few bars to One Shining Moment.
Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon can do one better; he can describe every single highlight from last year's video. Coach Cuonzo Martin has been playing it over and over again for the Vols the past month.
He started showing his players the video montage after Tennessee lost to Texas A&M in overtime on Feb. 22 — and didn't stop.
"He played that video like 20 times," Maymon said, laughing. "Almost every other day, during film, out of the blue, we'd watch the video. … Basically, we know everything, every play. He told us to close our eyes one time and just listen to the music."
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Martin's message — that the Vols could still salvage their season and make the NCAA tournament — got through. After that loss to Texas A&M, Tennessee won five of its last six games entering Selection Sunday, at which point it was given a No. 11 seed and a First Four game in Dayton. Including the Vols' three NCAA tournament wins, Tennessee has now won eight of its last nine games. In those eight wins, the Vols' average margin of victory is 20.9 points.
Earlier this season, more than 36,000 Tennessee fans signed an online petition, asking the school to bring back former coach Bruce Pearl. Now, Pearl is at Auburn and those same fans are singing Martin's praises as the Vols return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.
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"We had rocky times this season, so I can see where the doubt came from," junior guard Josh Richardson said. "It makes it a lot sweeter."
Tennessee players said they heard all the criticism and the chatter from the "bring back Pearl" movement, but they didn't let it bother them. It turned in to "us against the world," Maymon said.
"Luckily for our guys, they stayed the course, didn't get caught up in the negativity and continued to get better not only as basketball players, but as men," Martin said. "That's probably the biggest thing I'm proud of — and their love for each other has really grown as a unit. … They took a lot of lumps, bumps along the way."
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Throughout those lumps and bumps, Martin said his approach stayed the same. He stressed defense, rebounding and effort. Even if shots didn't fall, his team could stay in a game if it did those three things.
In the NCAA tournament, the Vols are averaging 26 defensive rebounds and 13 offensive rebounds a game. Maymon and junior forward Jarnell Stokes — both listed at 6-8, 260 pounds — are responsible for most of those. They have anchored this team on the glass, and Stokes single-handedly grabbed 18 rebounds against Mercer on Sunday. As a team, Mercer only managed 19 boards.
"There are no magic tricks," Martin said. "We haven't changed anything. There's nothing different. They just completely bought in and understood in order for us to be successful, this is what we have to do — and they're doing it."
The result? A Sweet 16 appearance and a date with Michigan on Friday night for a chance to continue this improbable run.
"It's a surreal feeling, because I said when Coach Martin (got here) and these guys started playing and (I) came here, Tennessee basketball was dead," Stokes said. "And now, to be back in the Sweet 16, it's a great feeling."
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