Consistency goes a long way for Vols

Rotation appears set for last week of regular season

Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl was asked an open-ended question the day before the Vols' upset over No. 2-ranked Kentucky.

"What needs to happen for this team now?"

Pearl squinted, like he sometimes does when he's thinking hard.

"I think,'' he began, hesitating before finishing his sentence, "I think we need some consistency. That's what we've got to have.''

The 19th-ranked Vols (21-7, 9-5 SEC) started their ninth different lineup in the 74-65 win over Kentucky on Saturday, opening the game with their most impressive half of basketball in charging to a 40-29 lead. Seniors Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince were joined by junior Brian Williams and sophomore Scotty Hopson.

"I think our rotation is pretty much set, we've got a comfort level,'' UT associate head coach Tony Jones said Sunday. "The players who served suspensions are all back and in the flow, Cam Tatum is nearly 100 percent from his ankle injury and Wayne Chism played a game without getting nicked up.

"We have the capability to play our best basketball here at the end of the season.''

The Vols play host to Arkansas (14-15, 7-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday (TV: CSS) before finishing the regular season on the road against Mississippi State (21-8, 9-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The legacy of this season's Tennessee team remains in the balance. The Vols have enjoyed some of the finest wins of the Pearl Era, but also, two of the worst losses.

The wins over No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Kentucky brought fans to their feet, but UT's 22-point loss at Southern Cal and 19-point loss at Vanderbilt rank among the top two most lopsided in Pearl's five years with the Vols.

UT's attrition has been well documented and is an obvious factor with Pearl shifting the lineup with each game in an attempt to set up favorable matchups.

"We're not talented enough . . . to necessarily impose our will on the opponents,'' Pearl said. "But we are smart enough and experienced enough to execute different gameplans.

"When you have as many roster adjustments as we've had, I don't think anyone gets complacent.''

Tennessee has made history of sorts this season, becoming the first team at UT to defeat two top-five opponents in the same season since Ray Mears' 1976-77 team.

That was arguably the best "Ernie and Bernie" team, as the Vols, led by Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld and Mike Jackson, went an amazing 4-0 against top-five teams that season.

UT finished 22-6 that season - 16-2 in the SEC to tie for the league crown - before losing in overtime to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Pearl and the Vols are intent on becoming the first UT team to advance past the Sweet 16, and that's why Jones said the team is keenly aware of the importance of closing the regular season strong.

"We have to start thinking about the seeding now,'' Jones said. "What will this last win do for us in the mind of the selection committee?''

The Vols were projected as a No. 6 seed in ESPN's "bracketology" prior to the win over Kentucky.

But an updated RealTimeRPI.com rating of 14th indicates UT picked up at least one seed position by beating the Wildcats.

The Vols could potentially move up or drop two more spots depending on their regular-season and SEC-tournament finish.

Tired Cats: Pearl said Kentucky looked fatigued down the stretch, pointing out the Wildcats played Thursday and the Vols played Tuesday.

"But we've had five occasions this season where there was an advantage/disadvantage,'' Pearl said, referring to one team getting more off-time than the other heading into a game. "The other four times, we've been on the wrong end of it.''

Most notably, the Vols played a late game at LSU on a Thursday and didn't return home until 3:30 a.m. on Friday heading into a Saturday home game with South Carolina which had been off a week.

Tennessee didn't look too tired in beating the Gamecocks by 26 points.

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Comments » 26

Alwaysavol writes:

If we move up in seeding, I hope we move up at least two spots. I think I'd rather stay a #6 seed than become a #5 seed. Too many bad things happen to those #5 seeds!

elbtenn#502977 writes:

Let's win these last 2 games, then win the tourney---last tourney championship in 1979 against the Cats in Birmingham. About time!

Bogytrain writes:

Pearl has proven his ability to win the big games during the season. I believe it's only a matter of time before he gets past the sweet-16 and wins a big tourney game as well. I'm hoping that time is March 2010.

They have to find a way to avoid those 5-10 minute scoring droughts. When/if they do that, great things will happen!!

Can't wait for Nashville!!

Fryinpansvols writes:

Like I posted a couple of weeks ago. I said that I thought UT's best basketball was ahead of them. Well, the time is now! After the upset of Kentucky maybe the light has flipped on for this team. GBO!

VolinCalif writes:

Hey. Has anyone heard what that kid, 6-9 or 6-10 had to say about Tenn after the Ky game? I have forgotten his name, but he is staying here with guardian's.

1Volunteer writes:

I would love to see the Volunteers beat KY again in the SEC tourney to get another crack at Vanderbilt. The way I see it, VU is in the driver's seat to win it. Playing in Nashville, having a bye, and having lost 2 to the favored team. But the Vols could do it with good team BB like we saw Saturday!

RoadTrip writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

Hey. Has anyone heard what that kid, 6-9 or 6-10 had to say about Tenn after the Ky game? I have forgotten his name, but he is staying here with guardian's.

You are asking too much to get a follow-up from KNS on something Vol fans care about within a two day period. They are still working on the Liar surfer dude stories.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

You are asking too much to get a follow-up from KNS on something Vol fans care about within a two day period. They are still working on the Liar surfer dude stories.

Yeah I am afraid you are correct. I would have thought that information would have been a great foll low up after the Big Win.

bigorange61 writes:

in response to 1Volunteer:

I would love to see the Volunteers beat KY again in the SEC tourney to get another crack at Vanderbilt. The way I see it, VU is in the driver's seat to win it. Playing in Nashville, having a bye, and having lost 2 to the favored team. But the Vols could do it with good team BB like we saw Saturday!

We will have to play better to beat Kentucky again. I hate to rain on the parade, but we blew a huge lead on our home court. We can't just gloss over that. Maybe if the same situation happens again, we won't have McBee trying to guard Wall.

largeandincharge writes:

his name is moses abraham. volquest or scout.com may have an update

volntx writes:

in response to bigorange61:

We will have to play better to beat Kentucky again. I hate to rain on the parade, but we blew a huge lead on our home court. We can't just gloss over that. Maybe if the same situation happens again, we won't have McBee trying to guard Wall.

There is nothing to gloss over. B-Ball is a game of scoring runs. Did you really think the #2 team in the country was not going to make a run? KY "thought there were going to win" when they were down double digits. I think going on a 9-0 run over the last 2 minutes after KY tied the game says it all. This was not Sisters of the Poor State Community College.

Volumnus writes:

Consistency is the product of conditioning, both mental and physical. I am not sure which falters with this team after a solid win. I suspect it is the mental conditioning that is fading. Lack of sense of urgency, selfishness, over inflated egos, who knows??? It would be nice if the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act would go away. They have played as "Super Jekylls" or "you guys play and we will go hide" for the entire season. So I am inclined to think it is mental. That is as much on the coaching staff as the team... I hope they have a handle on it. The next 5 or so games will determine the NCAA outcome as much as the tourney itself.

GBO!!! NOW GO FINISH THE SEASON!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Bogytrain:

Pearl has proven his ability to win the big games during the season. I believe it's only a matter of time before he gets past the sweet-16 and wins a big tourney game as well. I'm hoping that time is March 2010.

They have to find a way to avoid those 5-10 minute scoring droughts. When/if they do that, great things will happen!!

Can't wait for Nashville!!

That is indeed the key and may have been one of the things CBP had in mind using the word "consistency". In the game at Florida and the two against UK, we had an offensive game plan that was working, but then we had a stretch of five minutes or so in each game that let the opponents off the hook. I wasn't watching any of those games closely enough to know if personnel changes had anything to do with it, since we make them all the time for reasons I don't always understand, but I remember thinking in each of them, "Why are you taking those shots NOW? That is NOT how we got our lead in the first place!"

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I'm learning to love this year's team.I't fun watching kids mature.

VolunteerLifer writes:

Now that the rotation is settled, its time for the seniors and Hopson and Williams to lead the team on a mission to get to the final eight in the national tournament. That should be their goal. We have the talent and the depth to get there - we need the starters to step up their leadership and give their best effort for each game. Winning as much as we can now is key to the seeding, which is key to advancing. Go, Volunteers!!! Make history and get to the final eight.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Good. Just wanted to give people a chance to read that again.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Now that the rotation is settled, its time for the seniors and Hopson and Williams to lead the team on a mission to get to the final eight in the national tournament. That should be their goal. We have the talent and the depth to get there - we need the starters to step up their leadership and give their best effort for each game. Winning as much as we can now is key to the seeding, which is key to advancing. Go, Volunteers!!! Make history and get to the final eight.

OOPS! forgot to click reply.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

OOPS! forgot to click reply.

We have the talent to win the NC. We have already beaten the No. 1 and the No. 2 teams this year and Purdue isn't far back. Neither the 1st or 2st team in the country can say they have beat the top two teams this year. That distinction belongs to the Vols alone.

N2Motorsports writes:

Where is TaterVol?

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

We have the talent to win the NC. We have already beaten the No. 1 and the No. 2 teams this year and Purdue isn't far back. Neither the 1st or 2st team in the country can say they have beat the top two teams this year. That distinction belongs to the Vols alone.

Maybe, but we have alot of question marks, too. Defensively, we can play with the best of them. But offensively we are challenged. If we keep playing terrific defense and got our offense cranked up by tournament time then we could do some serious damage. But if you told me we would get to the final eight but no further, I'd take that in a New York minute and call this season a success.

murrayvol writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Maybe, but we have alot of question marks, too. Defensively, we can play with the best of them. But offensively we are challenged. If we keep playing terrific defense and got our offense cranked up by tournament time then we could do some serious damage. But if you told me we would get to the final eight but no further, I'd take that in a New York minute and call this season a success.

Oh yeah! Wish I could tell you that lifer.

james#216392 writes:

Pearl has his line up set. Now he needs to tweak his coaching. Having Skyler guard Wall was a bad idea. Not calling a time out and waiting for the 12:00 minute timeout cost us dearly. Take a time out and calm everyone down. Good job getting ready for KY. Definetly out coached opponent but tweak tweak tweak is the key to the final 8

bigorange61 writes:

in response to volntx:

There is nothing to gloss over. B-Ball is a game of scoring runs. Did you really think the #2 team in the country was not going to make a run? KY "thought there were going to win" when they were down double digits. I think going on a 9-0 run over the last 2 minutes after KY tied the game says it all. This was not Sisters of the Poor State Community College.

No, I pretty much expected Kentucky to make a run. I'm still concerned they were able to make up that big a difference on our home court. I also saw John Wall blowing by McBee like he wasn't even there. That cost us 6 to 8 points right there. If the bigs then confronted Wall he dished off to Cousins for easy baskets. You surely saw that too. I think if we are in that situation again, McBee won't be out there. Just my opinion.

John_10065 writes:

The best part of watching this team this year is how they have handled adversity. In early January I wondered if this was a NIT at best year. They responded. Such an incident as New Year's Eve would have likely crushed the season of lesser teams. It has been a joy to watch these young men pick themselves up and refuse to lay down.

I think that consistancy will come to this team through the end of the season. They have learned to overcome and play selflessly. That is the trait of a team, not a group of players. Great talent means nothing without teamwork, and UT has a team. And if there is one thing any sports fan knows, teams find a way to win. The Vols might not win the SEC tourney or get to the great 8 this year but they have been one of the best journeys in UT sports I have had the pleasure to witness.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to bigorange61:

No, I pretty much expected Kentucky to make a run. I'm still concerned they were able to make up that big a difference on our home court. I also saw John Wall blowing by McBee like he wasn't even there. That cost us 6 to 8 points right there. If the bigs then confronted Wall he dished off to Cousins for easy baskets. You surely saw that too. I think if we are in that situation again, McBee won't be out there. Just my opinion.

John Wall blows by everybody. I'm not disagreeing with you but I'm not sure it would have mattered who was guarding him.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to John_10065:

The best part of watching this team this year is how they have handled adversity. In early January I wondered if this was a NIT at best year. They responded. Such an incident as New Year's Eve would have likely crushed the season of lesser teams. It has been a joy to watch these young men pick themselves up and refuse to lay down.

I think that consistancy will come to this team through the end of the season. They have learned to overcome and play selflessly. That is the trait of a team, not a group of players. Great talent means nothing without teamwork, and UT has a team. And if there is one thing any sports fan knows, teams find a way to win. The Vols might not win the SEC tourney or get to the great 8 this year but they have been one of the best journeys in UT sports I have had the pleasure to witness.

Well said. An elite eight would be nice tho.

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