Neither a head count nor a roll call can account for Tennessee's competitive presence at the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
UT coach Pat Summitt conceded as much earlier this week.
"I could sit here at the house and drive myself nuts about how are we going to respond and who's going to show up,'' she said.
The fifth-seeded Lady Vols (22-10) showed up in Bowling Green Ky., Friday to begin final preparations for a first-round game against No. 12 Ball State (25-8) at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sunday (TV: ESPN2).
No. 4 Iowa State plays No. 13 East Tennessee State at 7 in the first game of a Berkeley (Calif.) regional doubleheader.
The winners plays Tuesday night for a trip to the regional semifinals.
Inconsistency has been a travel companion throughout UT's season. It's followed the Lady Vols through great victories, such as the 20-point second half comeback against Rutgers on Jan. 3, and deflating losses, like the listless performance at Kentucky on Feb. 19.
Having seven first-year players on the roster has contributed to the uneven ride. However, it's not the sole reason for the bumpiness.
One of Summitt's most pressing personnel concerns this week revolves around Tennessee's lone senior, forward Alex Fuller. The coach ticked off Fuller's scoring totals in three SEC tournament games - two points, no points, four points - as if they're seared in her memory.
Those games were a puzzling follow-up to Fuller scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the regular-season finale against Vanderbilt.
"I want Alex to be at a different level,'' Summitt said. "She didn't have a good SEC tournament. We count a lot on her."
The practice time between tournaments wasn't enough time for sweeping changes. Still, some useful tinkering took place. For example, the coaches emphasized to guards Shekinna Stricklen and Angie Bjorklund the importance of keeping their hands off defenders, so as to avoid foul trouble. An effort was made to sharpen the setting and using of screens, too.
With the university on spring break, several players took advantage of their added free time by doing extra shooting.
At this point, UT's most reliable repellent against inconsistency likely involves sheer effort.
"I think the one thing that I've tried to emphasize to them is that is something we shouldn't have to coach,'' Summitt said. "We can help them with the execution, but you have to bring the overall intensity level and your desire to compete on every possession."
The thought isn't lost on UT's younger players. In the aftermath of Monday night's selection show, the freshmen were fairly consistent in their take on the regular season's best lessons.
Amber Gray: "Just to leave it all on the floor."
Alicia Manning: "Just to never take a possession off."
Stricklen: "We just have to play hard every minute for 40 minutes."
Manning extended the line of thinking to a fallen teammate.
"You never know when it is going to be your last game, so you really have to leave it all on the floor," she said. "I never really grasped that until I saw Vicki Baugh come back and tear her ACL (knee ligament) again. Knowing someone and being close to someone who has that happen to them, it's heartbreaking."
Bjorklund, who has played the full 40 minutes three times this season, said that conditioning isn't an issue regarding effort. It's a matter of confidence and determination.
"You have to trust what you did in the preseason, everything to build up to this, that it's going to carry you through," Bjorklund said. "You have go all out every possession and trust that."
Notebook: Forward Glory Johnson has had the cast on her left hand removed and will wear a wrap on the hand in the tournament. The freshman forward suffered a sprained thumb ligament in the SEC tournament.