Falling out of polls a 'reality check' for Vols

Bruce Pearl Monday press conference

Ballots of the voters in Tennessee in the AP Top 25.

Jeff Lockridge of the Tennessean

Marcus Hunter WHBQ-TV, Memphis

All voters and ballots

The Tennessee men's basketball team has fallen out of the top 25 rankings for the first time since the end of the 2008-09 season.

The Tennessee men's basketball team lost its elite status as a top-25 team on Monday, falling out of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls.

The Vols (8-3) had a string of 26 consecutive polls ranked dating back to the 2009-10 preseason rankings.

"It's a reality check,'' UT senior point guard Melvin Goins said. "Since I've been here, we've been ranked, and this is disappointing. But at the same time, it brings a sense of hunger.''

The Vols' fall from their peak at No. 7 this season comes on the heels of three consecutive losses to unranked opponents: Oakland, Charlotte and Southern Cal.

UT's 66-65 win over Belmont last Thursday wasn't enough to keep the Vols in the rankings.

"The key to being a top-25 program is maintaining your position in the polls for long periods of time,'' coach Bruce Pearl said. "If you find yourself out, you work hard to try to get back in. There will be plenty of opportunities.''

For now, when three-year starter Scotty Hopson looks at the AP Top 25 he sees Memphis (9-2, No. 21) and Vanderbilt (9-2, No. 24) as the highest ranked teams in the state.

It doesn't sit well with Hopson.

"I'm looked at as a team leader, so I've got to do something to change that,'' Hopson said. "But this team has come back here with a mindset that we're going to do all we can.''

UT was forced to begin preparations for Wednesday's 7 p.m. game against UT Martin (4-9) with a skeleton crew.

Four players - Renaldo Woolridge, Jeronne Maymon, Kenny Hall and Tobias Harris - missed the Monday workout because of travel issues, and two others were out due to injury (Cameron Tatum, ribs) and an illness (Skylar McBee, flu).

Pearl said the travel issues were not the fault of any of the players involved, and he hopes they will be back for today's practice.

Tatum, injured in the first half of the win over Belmont when he tumbled over the bench and into a trash can, said he will try to return to today's contact practice.

McBee has a fever and remains questionable.

The Vols did get a lift Monday from the return of senior combo guard Josh Bone, who practiced for the first time since injuring his wrist in UT's exhibition win over Brevard on Nov. 3.

"It's a shot in the arm for the team,'' said Pearl, who plans to use Bone at the shooting guard and wing positions. "We'll see how Josh does and if he's cleared for (today's) contact practice. But it's good to have him back.''

UT senior center Brian Williams said he sensed more focus from his teammates, the drop out of the polls aside.

"It (ranking) is a number by our name, but obviously that means less highlights on (ESPN) SportsCenter,'' Williams said. "I'd rather be out now than at the end of the season.

"But our focus is on our next opponent, UT Martin, and we're taking it one game at a time,'' he said. "I believe we have top-25 talent, and we're a top-25 defense. We just need to get our offense going. The whole nation saw what we can do when we're on.''

Poll History: The Vols had a streak of being ranked in 32 consecutive polls come to an end in the 2008-2009 season. It happened after UT fell to 11-5 with losses in three of four games preceding the Jan. 19, 2009, poll. The losses were to unranked Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky.

The Vols remained unranked in the final eight polls before that season ended with an NCAA tournament first-round loss to Oklahoma State.

Tennessee's 21-13 record in 2008-2009 marked Pearl's worst record in his six-year coaching tenure in Knoxville, though the team made its first appearance in the SEC tournament championship game since 1991.

School Record: The school record for consecutive weeks ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 was from 1999 though the end of 2001, when former coach Jerry Green's teams were ranked in 35 consecutive polls.

Green's 2000-2001 team peaked at No. 4 before dropping out of the rankings after five consecutive losses.

RPI Rankings: Tennessee was No. 22 in Monday's RPI rankings, according to RealTimeRpi.com, and its schedule was rated as the fifth-toughest in the country.

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Comments » 26

wazzya69vol writes:

Now's the time for the real Vols to show up. Either wave the flag and surrender to the SEC and pollsters, or "charge of the light brigade" and take no prisoners. Personally I think it will be the latter. We'll be there for UT Martin game and then leave for Nashville around noon. Should be fun!! Let's make it 5 in a row and head into next season. The Orange & White game can't come soon enough! We're there!! GBO!! Wazzy

chrisw2967 writes:

As long as BP keeps playing his son and Mcmiss ,this team is going no place.

SATCHMOE writes:

Who gives a flip about the polls,I say screw the polls,screw Slive and the SEC restrictions and screw the NCAA.Play with pride and win because we are the Tennesse Vols.OH! And by the way SCREW THE REST.

Jakevol writes:

A team should not be in the top 25 when you look at the three teams that beat them. It is what it is.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to chrisw2967:

As long as BP keeps playing his son and Mcmiss ,this team is going no place.

I only wish the two you refer to could teach our "more talented players" to play just a speck as hard as they do....that's the real issue here, isnt it....

volaholic45 writes:

It's a reality check, all right. But it sort of seems like losses to three unranked teams and almost a fourth would have done the trick already. They're stacking up a body of work - who can blame the pollsters for figuring the two wins over Big East teams were flukes? Remember they also lost to Indianapolis in an exhibition (appropriately called). The team lacks leadership, consistency, has streaky shooters (even from the free throw stripe) - that's the challenge to be overcome, or that will be the story of this year.

Couchdummy writes:

I wish whoever invented the phrase "it is what it is" would explain it. Does it mean that you are what your record says you are? If that is the case, doesnt "at the end of the day" mean when the seedings come in March NCAA bracketing? Under that presumption, forget all the handwringing and "play to win the game" one game at a time. That is how the team and coaches should recover and reassert themselves from now forward! Learn from the losses and adjust!

TDTennesseeisfree writes:

We need to move on from Pearl...we could get set back years if we don't. He is poison to everyone. I was a big fan and amazed by how fast he turned the program around but his actions with the NCAA is unforgivable. He needs to be fired. He was outcoached the past four games anyway.

CrankE writes:

"I'm looked at as a team leader, so I've got to do something to change that,"

You mean, your performance isn't taking care of that already?

CrankE writes:

"I believe we have top-25 talent, and we're a top-25 defense. We just need to get our offense going. The whole nation saw what we can do when we're on."

Sigh. You just dropped 3 straight games and nearly a 4th. Is this really a good time to talk about potential? Why, the next thing you know, you'll go all Rick Clausen on us up in here-saying "if you don't like us, don't watch."

Handyman writes:

There comes a time when any coach (no matter how good) is not worth all the drama. Still can't believe BP was so stupid to lie to the NCAA. Geesh, just when you think you've got someone who you can believe in (finally), he turns out to be an idiot!

CrankE writes:

Dear Mike Hamilton,

What if Tennessee basketball actually IMPROVES while Bruce Pearl is gone for 8 games and then tanks upon his return? You know, just like Fulmer-Majors, 1992?

By the way, Pearl will have nothing but free time during that 8 game suspension, maybe he can sign that new contract then.

tick tock, Mikey.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to jcvet33:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I've known spoiled people my whole life...some of these kids are anything but spoiled and some are spoiled. Just like it's always been. It's not the kids fault though. It's coaches, parents, schools, and maybe even their churches.
Heck I'm spoiled most the time at 55 years of age. I blame school unions for myself...and my parents really cared too much for me, but don't worry 'cause my 2 older sisters really held me back and kept me in my place or I'd really be spoiled.
What does any of this have to do with UT bball? NOTHING! If you don't like it don't watch.haha lmao!

richvol writes:

The drop out of the rankings is well deserved. It's the reward for uninspired play and too much belief in your press clippings.

volfan24 writes:

Pearl and McBee suck. McBee averages more fouls than points, while Pearl gets an ovation when he can manage to hit a layup! Less playing time for them will result in more wins for the Big Orange! Maybe CBP will read some of these comments and keep those idiots on the bench!

GO VOLS!!!

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

THANK YOU SATCHMOE: YOU ARE SO RIGHT. BRUCE PEARL HAS DONE MORE FOR THIS TEAM AND THESE MORONS ARE JEALOUS. STOP PUTTING THE MAN DOWN YOU REDNECK. THOSE BIG KNOW IT ALL FIRED COACHES ON ESPN ARE THE GOOD ONES. GO VOLS!!!!!!!

cargen#1339565 writes:

Stop at the foul line when you have a drive if the path is not clear, A jumper is better than a charge which we make about four a game. Charges are called more often if it is a direct path to the bucket rather than a side angle drive. Brian needs to put the ball in the air instead on a thinking time low dribble which he loses 3 or 4 per game. We are afraid of the three with this gang. We lived off of the three in previous seasons. Hopson dribbles too low for his height and loses 3 per game with a kick or strip, Pleas dribble just a little higher and success will come your way. Please take the camera off of Hopson when he misses a shot or a strip, such a show of disappointment carries over to the others. Post play loses too many opportunities.

Volumnus writes:

Bruce Pearl has not dribbled a ball.
Steven Pearl can't dribble a ball.
McBee never gets the ball with enough time on the shot clock to dribble a ball.
Hopson dribbles too low to the floor.
Williams dribbles when he shouldn't.
It is obviously a dribbling problem, and this team has just dribbled down its collective leg...

So whose fault is it? The dribblers or the non-dribblers???

Just wondering...

Juzkruzin writes:

in response to tennrich1:

I only wish the two you refer to could teach our "more talented players" to play just a speck as hard as they do....that's the real issue here, isnt it....

I agree with you 100%, anyone got the gate on tape the last one, go back and focuse on 2 (two) players Pearl and McBee when they are in. Watch and see if they aren't constantly moving without the ball, why one is bribbling from side to side out front and the other two have glue on their shoes. I have never seen a flex offense ran like this. Five (5) players are support to be moving trying to cut to the basket, backdoor them, spread the defense out for a drive to the bucket. Also, watch and see when they get a time out who takes towels to wipe off the sweat and who doesn't. I know one player that would be on the bench at the start of the game and would tell him when he went in either move or you are coming back out. Pearl lost the two (2) game to Charollette and USC by calling time out with 3.5 seconds on the clock. That just gave the other team to set up under the basket and not let them drive, where if he had of just let them play, someone would have gone to the basket, made it or got fouled. Then of all things he threw it into Williams who everyone in the house knew he wasn't going to shoot and that let their center set up under the basket and instead of throwing the ball towards the basket (maybe get a foul) he made the guy with the ball shoot an NBA three. It is hard for three (3) people to handle the ball with 3.5 seconds left, Had he put Hopson in one corner and Harris in the other that would have pulled they away from the basket to guard them or they could have driven towards the basket and pulled up for a shot, but throwing the ball to Williams CBP just gave up, sad to say and in the Indy game he should have went zone with about 4 minutes to go. But I still root from you BO, just a bump in the road and we have Michelen's on the Orange Wagon so no blown tire yet!!

mytrifecta writes:

Not too concerned about the polls at this point. Just finish strong in February and March and the debacle over the last 4 games will be forgotten.

Southland writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I am not for firing Pearl. I have never been. he has done a great job and I dont understand the complaining that goes on. Having said that what makes you think this area has more holier than thou people than any other areas? What kind of poll have you conducted? What inside information do you have to make statements that you have made? What kind of people is the redneck ilk you are referring to? It sounds to me that you may not consider yourself holier than thou but you sure do seem to think you are better than most. What is this sinister motive you think is going on? How do you know the motives of the people that post on here? Are you able to know their hearts and their thoughts? Come on man, you are blowing as much smoke as the fire Pearl crowd is.

slov writes:

check out schedules on govolsxtra... have USC shown as "W" and haven't posted latest win against Belmont. Its 12/28... Good Hustle KNS - NOT.

Dobervol writes:

I think Pearl will ultimately get the mess fixed, but for now:

Oakland = wakeup call
Charlotte = OK, now, for REAL this time, that was a wakeup call.
USC = No kidding this time, we really mean it, that was an honest to goodness wakeup call.
Out of the polls = OK, to tell you the truth, we were just $h------ you all those other times, but honestly, really, this time, it really WAS a wakeup call. No kidding. Nope, no doubts this time, we're awake.

Until they in fact do wake up and do it on a consistent basis, they are the boys who cried wolf.

volalum1972 writes:

You armchair coaches need to get a life. I am concerned about the conference season. We aren't playing well on offense. The coach can't get on the floor and hit shots for the players. Give me players that play as hard as Pearl and McBee every day. They aren't perfect but their effort is impressive. Hopson could use some of it. We have a missing element this season, a catalyst on the floor. Hope we find it soon.

Waynesworld writes:

Quit complaining about BP's kid. He may not have the talent, but if everyone actually had his basketball smarts and played as hard as him, we may actually have won one out of those three

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I agree with you both somewhat. There ARE plenty of "rednecks in Tennessee as there are plenty in the whole country. Unfortunately what I consider redneck isn't an area problem but a people problem. People are always yelling at the person "in charge" and the blame game usually comes the loudest from the most ignorant people...I don't necessarily mean uneducated people either. It takes all kinds to make up the term redneck!

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