Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl's first impressions of first-round NCAA tournament opponent San Diego State are the Aztecs look a lot like the Vols.
"They will press some, their man-to-man is similar to ours, they will use their length to make us shoot over them on the perimeter and try to take away our post game,'' Pearl said. "The way they'll guard us is the way we'll guard them.
"There are some similarities there.''
Right down to the teams' records (25-8) and the number of teams their respective conferences have placed into the NCAA tournament (4).
The Vols and Aztecs tip off at 9:45 p.m. Thursday in Providence, R.I., in a Midwest Regional opening-round game.
Sixth-seeded Tennessee has been ranked in the top 25 from wire to wire this season, staying at No. 15 in the Associated Press poll this week.
But 11th-seeded SDSU, coming off its Mountain West Conference tournament-championship run, is among the more vogue upset picks in the NCAA tournament.
It started with Seth Davis picking San Diego State to win on CBS's selection show Sunday night, and ESPN's Jay Bilas and Doug Gottlieb have since added their name to list of analysts picking the Aztecs to upset the Vols.
"People aren't looking for Tennessee to do anything,'' UT sophomore Scotty Hopson said. "What more motivation can you ask for? Even if we win the first game, we'll be picked to lose every other game, too.''
UT opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite, but the line has slipped two points, indicating the gamblers like San Diego State, too.
What are they seeing? An Aztecs team that's athletic, well-coached and extremely efficient in the paint.
"They have some very unusual rebounding numbers,'' Pearl said. "They are 13th in the nation in rebounding and eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding.
"They rebound 46 percent of their misses.''
In other words, the Aztecs make almost half their shots (.477), and grab the rebound on half of the misses.
"Their second-shot offense is better than their first-shot offense,'' Pearl said. "They go get it well because they are athletic, long and have good size at the two (guard) as well.''
Junior Billy White (6-foot-8, 235 pounds) and freshman Kawhi Leonard (6-7, 225) highlight the front line.
White shoots .588 from the floor, while Leonard is more active and versatile, leading the team in scoring (12.8 points per game), rebounds (9.9) and steals (45).
"Billy White will remind our fans of Renaldo Balkman (formerly of South Carolina, now with the Denver Nuggets); he's left-handed, quick, a big leaper and a guy who can really score,'' Pearl said. "Leonard reminds me of a combination of (LSU's) Tasmin Mitchell and (Vanderbilt's) Jeffrey Taylor: strong, productive and physically mature for his years as a freshman.''
Junior Malcom Davis (6-9, 215) rounds out the Aztecs' front line, shooting .548 from the floor with 7.8 rebounds per game and a team-high 50 blocked shots.
"He (Davis) is a lot like what we hope Kenny Hall will be,'' Pearl said. "Our points guards will be matched against (D.J.) Gay, and he can shoot the 3-ball (.383 beyond the arc).
"Our three man, J.P. (Prince) and Cameron (Tatum) will be matched against Leonard.''
Post Wayne Chism, who was named second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press on Monday, likely will match up with White.
Pearl said there's nothing complicated about the SDSU attack.
"They are well-coached, well-drilled and they get really good looks,'' Pearl said. "They're not complicated, but they put their people in position to be successful.''
The Vols don't figure to change their personality too much for Thursday night's game.
"Defense and rebounding has been our thing; it's been our formula for success,'' Pearl said. "When we rebound, and when we play defense, we win.''
The numbers bear that out: The Vols are 24-0 when out-shooting their opponent, 19-0 when their opponent shoots under 40-percent and 22-0 when the opposition scores 69 points or less.
The Aztecs, however, won't at all be bothered by UT's grind-it-out style: They are 22-2 when they hold their opponents to 69 points or less.