As the fifth-seeded Lady Vols prepare to take on 12th-seeded Dayton, it's important for the fans to remember Tennessee has been in a similar situation before.
After one of the more disappointing regular season finishes in Pat Summitt's tenure, a pivotal win in March twenty years ago set up the Lady Vols to claim the national title.
On St. Patrick's Day, 1997, Chamique Holdsclaw led the Lady Vols with 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 12 boards in their win over Oregon.
A victory over Colorado in Iowa City set up an Elite Eight matchup with undefeated Connecticut, who had beaten the Lady Vols earlier in the season. Holdsclaw would contribute another double-double for the win.
"Tonight I played with a lot of emotion, I was excited," Holdsclaw said after the game. "I think my team did some great things and I just wanted to give them a lift, come in and do what I had to do."
Many fans greeted the team at the airport at 3 a.m. to celebrate an improbable Final Four trip.
"They said, 'They'll be some people,' and I said 'Surely not,'" Summitt said. "I mean I know I need to get to bed, I've lost my voice but it was really special."
Former 10Sports reporter Gina Miller was covering the story for WBIR at the time. This is an excerpt, verbatim, from her story:
"UT was not supposed to be in the Final Four, with their worst record in 10 years and an early exit from the SEC tournament. Those fans on the bandwagon could've easily jumped off."
Eerily, that reads word-for-word like a description of this 2016-2017 campaign. Hauntingly so.
The '97 squad handled Notre Dame easily in the Final Four, then avenged another regular season loss by beating Old Dominion in the championship game. Pat Summitt had claimed her fifth national championship. She'd go on to win three more with Tennessee.
Holly Warlick, an assistant to Summitt in 1997, has been at the helm of Lady Vols basketball for five seasons. Her teams have at least made the Sweet 16; the 2016-2017 incarnation of the Lady Vols will hope to repeat that postseason success.
After all, they're no stranger to parties on St. Patty's Day.
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