Pearl confident Vols are tournament tested

Next exam against Oklahoma State

DAYTON, Ohio - Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl likes to say the cream rises to the top at the end of the season.

"Do we have enough cream for Oklahoma State?'' Pearl said Wednesday. "We've clearly played our best basketball in March.''

The Vols (21-12) will need more of their best when they meet the Cowboys (22-11) at 12:25 p.m. Friday (TV: WVLT) in a first-round NCAA East Regional game at University of Dayton Arena.

Pearl predicted before this season started that this UT team could be better equipped to make a run in the men's NCAA tournament than his other Vols' teams because of its depth and size.

To date, this edition has proven to be a more efficient tournament team, going 4-2 in tournaments. UT was 2-1 at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., over Thanksgiving weekend and won two of three in the SEC tournament last weekend in Tampa, Fla.

Pearl's first UT team was 1-2 in tournament play, his second was 2-4, and last season's Vols were 4-3 in neutral court tournaments.

"We've been a good road team and a good neutral court team this season,'' Pearl said. "That suggests your style of play doesn't need to be energized by a home crowd.''

The Vols of Pearl's first three seasons fed off turnovers and quick scoring bursts. Runs of eight to 12 points took place over the period of a minute or two.

A stolen inbounds pass here, an effective backcourt trap there mixed in with a couple of Chris Lofton 3s and a Jajuan Smith dunk ... and before you knew it, the Vols had extended a lead or overcome a deficit.

"Our margin of victories have been closer this season because we haven't turned people over as much,'' said Pearl, who has had abandoned the press for the better part of this season. "We haven't been able to dominate opponents.

"We've had to find other ways to defend and score.''

That's led to Tennessee looking very much like the work in process it has been.

Instead of relying on one style and making adjustments, the 2008-09 Vols - featuring five newcomers - have had to change their gameplan for each opponent.

That's what Pearl was doing again Wednesday night in the Mills-Morgan Center on the campus of Wright State University.

"We went at it hard today, and the scout team did a good job,'' said Pearl, whose team bused the five hours to Dayton. "Tanner Wild did a good job as (guard) Byron Eaton, but Eaton's a little bit better.

"Steven Pearl did a good job as (guard) James Anderson, but Anderson is better.''

Pearl's sarcasm was intended to make the point that the scout team can only emulate the opponent so well.

"Our team will be ready after tomorrow's (today) practice,'' Pearl said. "We watched our breakdown film of Oklahoma State today, so the kids have seen them, and then today they practiced against what they do.''

Junior J.P. Prince said one advantage UT has in non-conference tournament play is teams have a hard time preparing for the Vols.

"It's not the same teams you see two or three times a year, so they don't know you as well and defenses play you more honest,'' Prince said.

Junior Wayne Chism points to experience.

"I believe we are better equipped for tournament ball,'' Chism said. "We've had a lot of experience with it, and so most of us come into this knowing what to expect.''

Junior Josh Tabb said the Vols' tournament success has given them the confidence they need to compete in what UT views as a four-team tournament this weekend.

"We came so close to winning it in Orlando, and then again on Sunday, it's a confidence builder,'' Tabb said. "We know we can play with anyone in the country when we're playing well.

"There's a chemistry we have now.''

Pearl said he has conducted this year's tournament trips very much like he did his first three years.

"I like to stay consistent with how we practice, how long we practice, our meetings, when we eat and what we eat,'' Pearl said. "I try to maintain the same intensity all season.

"I don't want them to see me as being any different or have things any different than our other trips.''

Especially if it means the Vols will win two games in a row to open this tournament like they did the ones in Orlando and Tampa.

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Comments » 66

flytnn writes:

Please just play well...that's all we ask. Go VOLS!!!!

FlaVol2 writes:

Go Vol Basketteers!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Fire em up, but this bunch is at best a C+ playing in a A- world.

We can hope....

CoverOrange writes:

This team plays better when they know they have to win (Fla, SC, Bama, Aub) and don't when they think all they have to do is show up (Ole Miss, Kentucky, Bama, Miss St).

CoverOrange writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Neither.

hamsamrick#421285 writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Fire em up, but this bunch is at best a C+ playing in a A- world.

We can hope....

'At best' we are a very dangerous team with a 8 to 10 man rotation. 'At best' we are A- especially when Prince, Smith and Chism are at their best. 'At best' we don't allow unforced errors (stupid turn-overs and missing easy shots). Throw in Tabb, Tatum, Williams, Hopson and Maze at their best and we will score 80 on anybody. But pdhuff, I have only seen us at our best maybe three times this year. :(

P.S. Free throws are to b-ball as putting is to golf. Tiger would have never won his first major if he wasn't one of the best putters of all time.

Fear_The_Kiffin writes:

DC,
The answer is, Tennessee (wishful thinking). Maybe we can upset Pitt in the second round and at least make it back to the sweet 16. From there anything would be possible. If we beat Pitt our confidence will be so high everybody better watch out. Remember who said it first. Tennesse could make a run if they upset Pitt, and i mean a deep run i'm talking elite 8 minimum. This is gonna get interesting, Go Vols.

gohawks1 writes:

Odds against winning the NCAA tournament (Danny Sheridan, odds maker):

UNC - 4:1

UCONN - 7:1

MEMPHIS - 10:1

LSU - 60:1

UT - 70:1

MISS. ST. - 225:1

WESTERN KY - 2,500:1

CORNELL - 1 million:1

MORGAN ST. - 1 billion:1

CAL ST. NORTHRIDGE - 500 billion:1

MOOREHEAD ST. - 1 trillion:1

EAST TN ST. - 1 septillion:1

FLORIDA - hmmmm... let's see... oh yeah, they're not in the tournament, so I guess that would be - nochanceinhell:1.

hamsamrick#421285 writes:

One more thing; I would rather start out with Oklahoma State and Pitt than American and Butler like we did last year. We did not play with any kind of energy or urgency against those two and it continued into the Louisville game. Does anyone else see a huge difference in this team when they have to play their best with tons of energy in order to win? We played great against big athletic Bama and Auburn and then lost all since of urgency against a smaller overmatched Miss. State. Did they even realize it was the SEC Championship game?

hamsamrick#421285 writes:

If we win the SEC Champ game then we would be starting off against a much lesser team and starting the NCAA's with no energy and emotion and urgency. We had Ohio State and Greg Oden down by 20 at half time a couple of years ago and they go on to the Finals! I think this team is better when it plays its best. I know how awesome Jajuan and Lofton were but this year's team has more potential. Oden and Ohio State and Florida were just as good as anyone in this year's tourny. We can beat anyone, honestly. The SEC has no reputation in basketball. I say the Vols have the best opportunity to prove the media wrong. Make our free throws and no turn-overs and we will go far.

gnm53108 writes:

in response to gohawks1:

Odds against winning the NCAA tournament (Danny Sheridan, odds maker):

UNC - 4:1

UCONN - 7:1

MEMPHIS - 10:1

LSU - 60:1

UT - 70:1

MISS. ST. - 225:1

WESTERN KY - 2,500:1

CORNELL - 1 million:1

MORGAN ST. - 1 billion:1

CAL ST. NORTHRIDGE - 500 billion:1

MOOREHEAD ST. - 1 trillion:1

EAST TN ST. - 1 septillion:1

FLORIDA - hmmmm... let's see... oh yeah, they're not in the tournament, so I guess that would be - nochanceinhell:1.

Hehehe...nochanceinhell:1.

Good one....hehehehehe

VOLKING writes:

in response to hamsamrick#421285:

One more thing; I would rather start out with Oklahoma State and Pitt than American and Butler like we did last year. We did not play with any kind of energy or urgency against those two and it continued into the Louisville game. Does anyone else see a huge difference in this team when they have to play their best with tons of energy in order to win? We played great against big athletic Bama and Auburn and then lost all since of urgency against a smaller overmatched Miss. State. Did they even realize it was the SEC Championship game?

First off, we start with OK State....leave Pitt out of it until/if we get that far. I'm not too sure I would wish for OK St. over American or Butler....simply because we could play without energy and a sense of urgency and still win. We very well could play with energy and urgency and still get beat by OK State. We have to do everything right to beat this team...defend the three, rebound, work the ball inside...and make our free throws. Against OK State I am worried about their 3 point shooters...and our inability to defend the three. I don't think they can beat us inside and I don't think we can beat them from outside. Our inside game versus their outside game. Should be a good one. Go Vols!!!

gohawks1 writes:

in response to UTfan4life:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is. :-)

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

same old; if Tyler passes, we win. If Tyler shoots, we lose.

pretty simple stuff.

bluetick writes:

in response to gohawks1:

Odds against winning the NCAA tournament (Danny Sheridan, odds maker):

UNC - 4:1

UCONN - 7:1

MEMPHIS - 10:1

LSU - 60:1

UT - 70:1

MISS. ST. - 225:1

WESTERN KY - 2,500:1

CORNELL - 1 million:1

MORGAN ST. - 1 billion:1

CAL ST. NORTHRIDGE - 500 billion:1

MOOREHEAD ST. - 1 trillion:1

EAST TN ST. - 1 septillion:1

FLORIDA - hmmmm... let's see... oh yeah, they're not in the tournament, so I guess that would be - nochanceinhell:1.

Put a C-note on Tennessee and a C-note on Gonzaga. They are a 60:1 odd. So what if you lose a couple of hundred. Think of the payoff instead. :)

Espn Radio here today they guy has UT winning it all. Fla State I think will be a final 4 team.

bluetick writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I have Fla St vs Memphis in the final with Memphis winning this year. That's why the call it gambling.

hamsamrick#421285 writes:

VOLKING,
I agree 100%. We can easily lose and I wouldn't be surprised. My point is that I would rather be throne into the fire (against OK state and Pitt) and play like mad men and lose than play the first game or two like we did last year and the way we played against Miss State.

bluetick writes:

the, they ...what the hell?

WeLoveTennesseeVols writes:

in response to flytnn:

Please just play well...that's all we ask. Go VOLS!!!!

Play any way you want to, we know you'll give your best. After all who wants to lose!! You are winners, act like it! We are behind you, live off of that!! Have fun, thank God, and love your country !! Praise Jesus have a good time, a good trip, and come back home to us safe and sound. And hopefully with a few more victories under your belts!

Layla_Kiffin_is_hott writes:

Wow... I was looking on Ok States stats... Our weakness on defense is teams that can shoot the three.. This team is 5th in the nation with 9.3 threes a game. and 25 in 3 point %... Why did we get so screwed on the matchups...

pdhuff#552644 writes:

I predict the quick demise of B Ball threads on this site.

LifetimeVolFan98 writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I've got 2 brackets - one with Louisville winning it and one with Pitt (I know, I picked them over UT). But, the Cards are playing (argueably) the best ball in the country right now - Pitt, BIG, ATHLETIC & DEEP. The downfall of Memphis again will be TOs and FTs (My opinion)

LifetimeVolFan98 writes:

in response to supersmo18:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I would agree - BUT, only when Lawson is on the court. Will he be healthy enough for the stretch run?

rocky_topper writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

I predict the quick demise of B Ball threads on this site.

I predict that your brain is the size of a pea!

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

why would anyone pick a memphis team that barely beat a doga## tennesee team by 2 points?? granted, memphis got another cakewalk bracket, but once they hit the real teams they'll get reamed.

No one is thinking about the big 12 teams, and I think at least one of them will make a run. My hope is the big TIN gets bounced out early, as usual. The SEC is setup to fail, and I agree with Hamilton, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yeah, UT got screwed on the selection, should have been a 5 seed. Piss on the pundits and selection committe. They are supposed to view 'by team', not 'by conference'.

Then again, Bruce f****d up in SEC title game by not pressing early against a tired MSU team...but we all know the conference 'hinted' to Bruce it was better to lose (wink, wink, nod, nod).

TommyJack writes:

in response to A_VOICE_OF_REASON:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That kind of talk is "the voice of reason"?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

That kind of talk is "the voice of reason"?

I surmise there are several voices (new) of reason popping up.

We'll know soon.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

same old; if Tyler passes, we win. If Tyler shoots, we lose.

pretty simple stuff.

We have a winner! Great post and it really is that simple. Sadly, most of our losses had to do with Tyler's choices on the court and little to do with the other team. Good for us - IF he makes the right choices. Go Vols!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to Timed_vol:

why would anyone pick a memphis team that barely beat a doga## tennesee team by 2 points?? granted, memphis got another cakewalk bracket, but once they hit the real teams they'll get reamed.

No one is thinking about the big 12 teams, and I think at least one of them will make a run. My hope is the big TIN gets bounced out early, as usual. The SEC is setup to fail, and I agree with Hamilton, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yeah, UT got screwed on the selection, should have been a 5 seed. Piss on the pundits and selection committe. They are supposed to view 'by team', not 'by conference'.

Then again, Bruce f****d up in SEC title game by not pressing early against a tired MSU team...but we all know the conference 'hinted' to Bruce it was better to lose (wink, wink, nod, nod).

Exactly. We don't think your conference is any good so we'll seed you to all lose at least by round 2. Next year, we'll point to your failures in this year's tourney as cause to leave you out or seed you low again. How come that never applies to the Big 10 or PAC 10? Come to think of it, it works that way in football too! OK, I'm convinced - the sports and media power brokers on the coasts still don't like the SEC. Oh well, maybe we can prove them wrong.

Of course, if I were Washington, I would have been looking for a 13 seed more along the lines of Belmont or Cal State, not Miss State. That just goes to show how badly Slive let our conference get screwed!

VolJunkie writes:

in response to TommyJack:

That kind of talk is "the voice of reason"?

sounds like THE_VOL to me ...

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to DCdynasty:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do you have a 3rd bracket where N.Car. wins it all? 'Cause that's what will happen...possibly Loisville.
Hey I'd much rather Memphis win it! UT will beat Pitt...Won't beat Duke or N.Car....possible tho'

TommyJack writes:

in response to VolJunkie:

sounds like THE_VOL to me ...

yep

volsfan92 writes:

LSU taking Butler apart maybe some of the talking heads want to rethink their opinion of SEC

volsfan92 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Do you have a 3rd bracket where N.Car. wins it all? 'Cause that's what will happen...possibly Loisville.
Hey I'd much rather Memphis win it! UT will beat Pitt...Won't beat Duke or N.Car....possible tho'

mocs and vols I think UT can beat Pitt too I think we go inside and get Blair in foul trouble

givehim6 writes:

History shows UT plays it's best ball after a loss, so bring it to the Oky's. But leave some in the tank for Pitt.

RoyaltyVol writes:

in response to givehim6:

History shows UT plays it's best ball after a loss, so bring it to the Oky's. But leave some in the tank for Pitt.

Hope your right! If we can win the first game, UT will have no problem getting motivated for Pitt! Should be interesting, just keep the ball away from Prince the final 5 minutes of the game and maybe we can win a few games in the tourney!

volsfan92 writes:

yup focus everything on one game at a time. Survive and advance. That OK State team is tough.

volsfan92 writes:

Memphis having a little trouble with CSU-Northridge

ctownvol writes:

Where is zz? WOWing?

volsfan92 writes:

LSU game is a good lesson in how cold shooting gets in NCAA tournament, both teams can't buy one for the last 5 mins

TommyJack writes:

in response to ctownvol:

Where is zz? WOWing?

Last seen in Wiki World. Caressing his joystick.

volsfan92 writes:

butler has come back to within 2

CLKVOL writes:

Memphis NC bound? give me a break..
only up by 3 at half time to cal state who?
Memphis is being exposed

ctownvol writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Last seen in Wiki World. Caressing his joystick.

He'll go blind...

volsfan92 writes:

man butler is playing tough and memphis might lose

volsfan92 writes:

northridge has 22 points inside memphis 16

volsfan92 writes:

cal just had to take time down 6 they are in trouble

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to ctownvol:

He'll go blind...

Or hair will grow in his palm.

volsfan92 writes:

lsu and memphis escape

ctownvol writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Or hair will grow in his palm.

Either way he gets what he deserves. Filthy little booger.

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