Will success from NIT title spoil Vols?

Bruce Pearl speaks at the Knoxville Quarterback Club's meeting

Handling adversity is one thing, but handling success is another.

"That will be the next step for this basketball team,'' Tennessee men's coach Bruce Pearl said Monday. "After the excitement of playing in Madison Square Garden, (a letdown) is human nature.''

Pearl said the game on Tuesday (TV: FSTN, 7:30 p.m.) with Middle Tennessee State (3-3) at Thompson-Boling Arena represents a trap game for the Vols (5-0).

"Our guys have a million (school) papers to do and finals coming up,'' Pearl said. "(MTSU) is getting us at a real good time. It's definitely a trap game.''

Tennessee has jumped from No. 24 in both polls to No. 13 in The Associated Press poll and No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.

But the Vols are mindful they have a long way to go this season and don't plan on a letdown against the Blue Raiders.

"We know we can get better, and we have to get better,'' said UT junior Scotty Hopson, who scored one point in 24 minutes in the Vols' 75-54 win over MTSU in Nashville last season. "It's going to take mental focus to win this next game, and that starts with the veteran leadership setting a tone and bringing the energy.''

The Vols have not been impressive at home this season, losing by 15 points to Division II Indianapolis in an exhibition before squeaking past Belmont and Missouri State in games that were in doubt in the final minute.

Pearl said he's hoping Tennessee found itself at the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York, where it defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 77-72 last Wednesday, and Villanova, 78-68, on Friday.

"It gives the team a chance to build an identity,'' Pearl said.

"But this game worries me. (MTSU) is athletic and deep enough to give us trouble.''

The Blue Raiders average out-rebounding opponents by nine each game.

MTSU beat Evansville, 82-70, in its most recent game last Wednesday before Evansville turned around and beat last season's NCAA tournament runner-up, Butler, 71-68 on Saturday.

Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis was confident enough to mention the possibility of a win against UT on Monday.

"We want to get better against Tennessee,'' Davis told The Daily News Journal, "but this game will not define us, whether it's an upset or whatever. There is no more added emphasis on this game.

"Our players will be better for playing this game no matter what happens."

The Vols, who have beaten the Blue Raiders eight consecutive times including a 109-40 pasting three years ago, have opened as 18-point favorites.

Maymon's Ready: UT sophomore transfer Jeronne Maymon said he's only got one exam left, and he's getting better than a C in all of his classes.

"I'm going to be ready,'' said Maymon, who could play as early as the Dec. 11 game at No. 3 Pittsburgh.

Pearl said Maymon will play at the four along with Tobias Harris and Steven Pearl, but added that Steven Pearl could see action at the three with Hopson and Skylar McBee.

Hopson Honored: Hopson was named the SEC Player of the Week for the first time after being voted the Most Outstanding Player at the NIT Season Tip Off.

Hopson recorded his first career double-double in the win over VCU, scoring 18 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Against Villanova, Hopson had 18 points.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mgrif32 and at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/

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Comments » 39

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

No.

VolunteerLifer writes:

"Pearl said Maymon will play at the four along with Tobias Harris and Steven Pearl, but added that Steven Pearl could see action at the three with Hopson and Skylar McBee."

Huh? I thought Hopson and McBee were shooting guards, the 2 position? I thought we have been told that the three is handled by Tatum and Woolridge. Am I missing something?

I agree that once we have Maymon for the four, Pearl should go to the three, because he's a little short for the four, and can defend on the perimeter. How deep will we be when we get Maymon and Bone back? Wow.

ACWLY writes:

Griffin or Adams, who's the most negative? These two guys are pathetic! PLEASE LEAVE KNOXVILLE!!!

wycoller writes:

in response to ACWLY:

Griffin or Adams, who's the most negative? These two guys are pathetic! PLEASE LEAVE KNOXVILLE!!!

Could be worse. The Tennessean has Climer & Biddle. Can't get much more negative than those two whiners.

vols1987 writes:

in response to ACWLY:

Griffin or Adams, who's the most negative? These two guys are pathetic! PLEASE LEAVE KNOXVILLE!!!

Griff doesn't say anything about the basketball program. He loves those guys. He just wasn't a fan of the Phil firing.

Work on your reading comprehension please.

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

"Pearl said Maymon will play at the four along with Tobias Harris and Steven Pearl, but added that Steven Pearl could see action at the three with Hopson and Skylar McBee."

Huh? I thought Hopson and McBee were shooting guards, the 2 position? I thought we have been told that the three is handled by Tatum and Woolridge. Am I missing something?

I agree that once we have Maymon for the four, Pearl should go to the three, because he's a little short for the four, and can defend on the perimeter. How deep will we be when we get Maymon and Bone back? Wow.

I think what your missin is Pearl is the coach
You are the fan

Let's let him make the call on who plays what

Mini-pearls minutes are slim at best, if he don't kill
Us what's it matter?

Depth is depth

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to ACWLY:

Griffin or Adams, who's the most negative? These two guys are pathetic! PLEASE LEAVE KNOXVILLE!!!

Those that don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. Remember the first ever #1 ranking in UT history and what happened immediately after that? There was nothing wrong with what Griffin wrote. He just said to be wary of a possible letdown in this next game. Sheesh. I agree with the other guy that replied and that you need to learn some reading comprehension.

PopsinCapetownSA writes:

I watched the game live after midnight friday night from capetown (7 hrs ahead). Impressed with fast shot blocking defense but thought there was poor decision making on offense and lets face it, this was a slow not very good villinova team. At least fri they didn't look very good. POP$

TheREALFightSong writes:

in response to Futurecoach16:

Those that don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. Remember the first ever #1 ranking in UT history and what happened immediately after that? There was nothing wrong with what Griffin wrote. He just said to be wary of a possible letdown in this next game. Sheesh. I agree with the other guy that replied and that you need to learn some reading comprehension.

I totally agree with everyone about reading comprehension. And last time I checked, Mike's last name was Griffith, not Griffin.

Volumnus writes:

Be wary of the Frog, Kermit has a reputation of being a giant killer. He loves the smell of an upset opportunity.

Tennfan4075 writes:

I have been impressed with Hopson the last few games, maybe he is finally living up to all the hype. Hope so. Some of these Monday morning coaches should lay off Steven Pearl, he usually does what he is sent in the game to do, granted he is not the most talented guy on the team but he is much better than many give him credit for, and for upset forget it not going to happen. GO VOLS.

Madkels writes:

Just hang the two polls in the locker room showing Villanova still ahead of us along with other negative articles from the KNS. That should keep them grounded and motivated. This team plays better as the underdog.

Greyfeathers writes:

Not to worry... Lyin Bruce will pull them through. He can walk on water!

STstatefarmVOLS writes:

in response to PopsinCapetownSA:

I watched the game live after midnight friday night from capetown (7 hrs ahead). Impressed with fast shot blocking defense but thought there was poor decision making on offense and lets face it, this was a slow not very good villinova team. At least fri they didn't look very good. POP$

Slow not very good villanova team?? Are you sure you were watching the same game as I was? They were slow because we were stopping them on defense, they sure weren't slow the game before...

RockyTop1_old writes:

in response to Greyfeathers:

Not to worry... Lyin Bruce will pull them through. He can walk on water!

Forget your meds today??? Slow down and go back into your room in the basement, that's a good boy...BTW, your name says it all!

Either stand up for the VOLS or declare WHO you really are! GBO!!!

NeylandWest writes:

in response to Tennfan4075:

I have been impressed with Hopson the last few games, maybe he is finally living up to all the hype. Hope so. Some of these Monday morning coaches should lay off Steven Pearl, he usually does what he is sent in the game to do, granted he is not the most talented guy on the team but he is much better than many give him credit for, and for upset forget it not going to happen. GO VOLS.

AMEN!!! Pearl has worked his tail off at the free throw line and it showed in the NIT games. Earlier, someone said they cringe whenever Steven enters the game...well, I cringe whenever someone posts something like that.

brod writes:

i don't think that winning a tournament will spoil them. pitt is coming up on dec. 11. it will be a different type matchup for them. our weaknesses in the post could be exposed. john fields needs to step it up. he fouls too much, and doesn't score enough. he can't continue to put people on the foul line.

JohnnyD writes:

Lets Go! We are clicking on all pistons with Scotty playing to his potential! If he can keep playing at that level...VOLS WILL ROLL!!!!! Good effort Scotty...keep up the good work!

JohnnyD writes:

in response to NeylandWest:

AMEN!!! Pearl has worked his tail off at the free throw line and it showed in the NIT games. Earlier, someone said they cringe whenever Steven enters the game...well, I cringe whenever someone posts something like that.

Excellent post! I agree with you 100%! Dane Bradshaw wasnt the most talented player either...that situation worked out alright! Way to go Steve!!!

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Agent_Orange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say thats some excellent "anti" interloping right there! (golf clap)
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to RockyTop1_old:

Forget your meds today??? Slow down and go back into your room in the basement, that's a good boy...BTW, your name says it all!

Either stand up for the VOLS or declare WHO you really are! GBO!!!

Witch Doctor say he already had...he is for the male cheerleaders.
Bones never lie.

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to TheREALFightSong:

I totally agree with everyone about reading comprehension. And last time I checked, Mike's last name was Griffith, not Griffin.

Yeah, that one was my bad in the post. Just looked up at his post instead of the actual article. Thought something looked weird.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Basketball has a way of reminding a team quickly that if you don't play hard against everyone you won't win against anyone.

tenndave writes:

in response to Futurecoach16:

Those that don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. Remember the first ever #1 ranking in UT history and what happened immediately after that? There was nothing wrong with what Griffin wrote. He just said to be wary of a possible letdown in this next game. Sheesh. I agree with the other guy that replied and that you need to learn some reading comprehension.

I agree with you. Was Nova overrated to begin with. Let downs happen. That is part of the growing process. Beat Number 3 Pitt and watch the respect start. Lose to MTSU and Pitt and kiss the top 30 goodbye accordng to the voters this week. What only matters is the growth between now and Mar 1 and to make sure we are hitting on all cylinders on that date. Then enjoy another ride.
Go Pearl!! Go Vols!!!

johnlg00 writes:

Looking back at the season so far as presented in the article, it is less surprising to me that the polls have the Vols ranked as low as they are. To an outsider, that pre-NIT schedule wasn't exactly "murderer's row", and the Vols didn't exactly destroy them. Such an outsider could have looked at the Villanova win as simply a bad day for the 'Cats. I agree with tenndave that the MTSU game and especially the Pitt game will go far toward establishing the Vols' identity nationally, for better or worse.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Volumnus:

Be wary of the Frog, Kermit has a reputation of being a giant killer. He loves the smell of an upset opportunity.

Face it Volumnus. It's hard to be wary of a frog.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Looking back at the season so far as presented in the article, it is less surprising to me that the polls have the Vols ranked as low as they are. To an outsider, that pre-NIT schedule wasn't exactly "murderer's row", and the Vols didn't exactly destroy them. Such an outsider could have looked at the Villanova win as simply a bad day for the 'Cats. I agree with tenndave that the MTSU game and especially the Pitt game will go far toward establishing the Vols' identity nationally, for better or worse.

Every season is a work in progress. The Vols are replacing 3 key contributors and that can take awhile.

Maymon could help a lot and I hope he does.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Every season is a work in progress. The Vols are replacing 3 key contributors and that can take awhile.

Maymon could help a lot and I hope he does.

Oh, I agree, and I certainly didn't mean to be putting down the Vols OR their schedule. I'm just saying that there weren't very many "signature" victories until 'Nova, so it would be easy for any non-fan to say, and not without justification, that the Vols so far have four wins over average teams and one "lucky" day.

BigOrangeBill writes:

in response to STstatefarmVOLS:

Slow not very good villanova team?? Are you sure you were watching the same game as I was? They were slow because we were stopping them on defense, they sure weren't slow the game before...

If you really think Villanova is a slow team, I've got a bridge to sell you. This is a CLASSY OUTFIT with a super classy coach. A really GOOD team as well! I wish Villanova the best of luck everytime they play anybody (but our Vols, of course).

MemphoVol writes:

Just curious.... What's up with Scotty and the Vanilla Ice throwback to the 80's haircut?!?!
As long as he keeps making the shots, he can have a Don King haircut for all I care.

BigOrangeBill writes:

in response to ACWLY:

Griffin or Adams, who's the most negative? These two guys are pathetic! PLEASE LEAVE KNOXVILLE!!!

ACWLY, I can't believe your ridiculous post. John Adams is an excellent, award-winning writer. We're lucky to have him in Knoxville. And Mike GRIFFITH (not Griffin) is the BEST sportswriter we've had here in years. ACWLY, do you ever read their stuff closely? Appreciate the structure of their writing? Appreciate the story line of their columns? I suggest you give it a try before calling real professionals "pathetic". I guarantee you getting a sports section put together with LOTS of stories and results is one of the toughest jobs around. Deadlines, column organization, story organization, grammar, headlines, proper assignment of space. It's never ending and always due again TOMORROW! It would be a real hoot to see you try to write a great column over and over again, day after day. I suggest you take a "join the real world" pill.

ACWLY writes:

in response to BigOrangeBill:

ACWLY, I can't believe your ridiculous post. John Adams is an excellent, award-winning writer. We're lucky to have him in Knoxville. And Mike GRIFFITH (not Griffin) is the BEST sportswriter we've had here in years. ACWLY, do you ever read their stuff closely? Appreciate the structure of their writing? Appreciate the story line of their columns? I suggest you give it a try before calling real professionals "pathetic". I guarantee you getting a sports section put together with LOTS of stories and results is one of the toughest jobs around. Deadlines, column organization, story organization, grammar, headlines, proper assignment of space. It's never ending and always due again TOMORROW! It would be a real hoot to see you try to write a great column over and over again, day after day. I suggest you take a "join the real world" pill.

Bill,I took the pill like you suggested, what a waste, just like you! The real UT world can't stand Adams or Griffin only you and a few other yoyos! Get real goof balls!

theoldbear writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

"Pearl said Maymon will play at the four along with Tobias Harris and Steven Pearl, but added that Steven Pearl could see action at the three with Hopson and Skylar McBee."

Huh? I thought Hopson and McBee were shooting guards, the 2 position? I thought we have been told that the three is handled by Tatum and Woolridge. Am I missing something?

I agree that once we have Maymon for the four, Pearl should go to the three, because he's a little short for the four, and can defend on the perimeter. How deep will we be when we get Maymon and Bone back? Wow.

How about reading it this way? "Steven Pearl at the three, along with Hopson at the two and Skylar McBee at the point."

McBee played a lot of point in the NIT, making a great change of pace from Goins.

With Harris, Williams, FIeld, Maymon, underneath, and two or three different sets out front, this team may have trouble finding enough minutes for everybody.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I'm happy with #13, for now! I predicted 15 or so after the Villa win. That they think we beat a very good team is awesome! We did.If we played Villanova tonight instead of MTSU the score may favor Them.I don't think so...but it might. We are not a polished team. As others said we won't know anything till March...It will be fun getting there meanwhile.
GBO Go Vols!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Not bad. 86-56 over MTSU. Our offense looked pretty good. It's amazing how 3 pointers going down make a team look efficient! ha yeah Summitt
W/o rotation I think Harris and Hopson could've had 30 ea. Hall could have had 30 with enough time. I'm not sure but I think Williams may have had 30 rebounds. Summitt could have had 30 with 10 shots! Fun game...for UT.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Not bad. 86-56 over MTSU. Our offense looked pretty good. It's amazing how 3 pointers going down make a team look efficient! ha yeah Summitt
W/o rotation I think Harris and Hopson could've had 30 ea. Hall could have had 30 with enough time. I'm not sure but I think Williams may have had 30 rebounds. Summitt could have had 30 with 10 shots! Fun game...for UT.

Maybe getting a little giddy here. Hall would need about five or six games to score 30! Williams is doing a great job on the boards so far this year, but if he ever gets 30 rebounds in a game, I will absolutely fall over dead! Still, it WAS a fun game for the Vols. They put an end to that "trap game" talk rather decisively, I thought.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Maybe getting a little giddy here. Hall would need about five or six games to score 30! Williams is doing a great job on the boards so far this year, but if he ever gets 30 rebounds in a game, I will absolutely fall over dead! Still, it WAS a fun game for the Vols. They put an end to that "trap game" talk rather decisively, I thought.

Well John? How can I ever hope Williams will get 30 'bounds if you gonna fall dead? btw What traps!? There practically weren't any. I don't recall for sure but I don't remember traps on any of our loose balls. Mostly it was Hopson forgetting to take the ball with him on his spins to get to the basket...or Woolridge(bless his heart) just being clumsy. I think Hopson cares enough to find a cure. I'm still wondering about Woolridge...at least when he has the ball. btw again...I dont' know why I picked 30? I think it was looking forward to Harris getting 30.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Well John? How can I ever hope Williams will get 30 'bounds if you gonna fall dead? btw What traps!? There practically weren't any. I don't recall for sure but I don't remember traps on any of our loose balls. Mostly it was Hopson forgetting to take the ball with him on his spins to get to the basket...or Woolridge(bless his heart) just being clumsy. I think Hopson cares enough to find a cure. I'm still wondering about Woolridge...at least when he has the ball. btw again...I dont' know why I picked 30? I think it was looking forward to Harris getting 30.

Maybe you were just punning, but the expression "trap game", for any who might not be aware, refers to a game, in between two "big" games, that a team might overlook because of either looking back at a big win or looking forward to a marquee matchup. Some feared going into the MTSU game that the Vols might overlook them and blow, or at least look bad in, a game they ought to win easily.

As to your other point, Scotty doesn't seem to need to be trapped to turn it over, there just has to be another player who SEEMS to be within arm's reach to make Scotty overreact in such a way that he coughs it up. I'm afraid Woolridge just IS clumsy or still doesn't have any idea what he is actually trying to accomplish while he is on the court. To give him his due, he did have a couple of nice rebounds in the Villanova game.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I'm guessing that basketball for Woolridge is not as important to him as it is for others around him. He plays good D but it maybe comes naturally from playing against his dad. He just never seems to have a lot of enthusiasm. May be a characteristic instead of a flaw...laid back? I don't. But I bet his dad would like to see him play smarter. I didn't really mean he was clumsy as much as John's statement as he isn't aware of what's going on around him on offense. I see potential with Woolridge or I wouldn't be trying to figure him out. If he doesn't come around though I don't see him getting a lot of minutes if any.

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