Bruce Pearl has gone from riding the high of Tennessee's first NCAA Elite Eight appearance to the low of an NCAA investigation in the offseason.
The men's basketball coach takes to the podium today at media day, where the aftershocks of both events will play a role in the question/answer session.
A look at five questions Pearl could be asked, and what he might and might not say:
1. What's the latest with the NCAA investigation and how has it affected the program?
What Pearl will say: Pearl's not happy he and his assistants haven't been out on the road to recruit since Sept. 24. The flip side is the off-campus recruiting ban has allowed them to be present at more of the individual workouts. With five newcomers -transfers Jeronne Maymon and John Fields, and freshmen Tobias Harris, Trae Golden and Jordan McRae - that should pay dividends against a non-conference schedule ranked as the fourth-toughest in the nation by CNNSI.com.
What Pearl won't say: The Vols have taken a beating in the national media over the investigation, and while there doesn't seem to be any new developments, it's safe to say no one in the athletic administration can breathe easy until the NCAA delivers its letter of allegations in December. UT's unprecedented self-imposed sanctions could take some of the sting out of the NCAA's pending penalties, but probation is likely and more sanctions are possible:
2. Who are the projected starters?
What Pearl will say: The evaluation process is ongoing and there are a number of possibilities as far as who will start and how deep the rotation will go.
The focus in the preseason is individual skills and fundamentals; it has yet to be seen how players fit into the scheme. Players will distinguish themselves based on how quickly they learn and how they perform on the court and in the classroom.
What Pearl won't say: Point guard Melvin Goins and shooting guard Scotty Hopson are as close to locks as it gets, and Harris' abilities are such that it's hard to imagine him not winning a starting spot. Brian Williams and Cam Tatum have the edge at the post and on the wing.
3. What are the team's strengths and weaknesses?
What Pearl will say: This is the deepest and biggest team Pearl has had at UT, and the Vols plan to play a more physical style that should lead to better defense and rebounding. UT will press in spots, but it won't rely on it like it did when the Vols had smaller players.
What Pearl won't say: The players have rallied around Pearl and the program as a result of the NCAA investigation. But the true test of team chemistry comes when the playing rotation shakes out and there are hurt feelings among the 14 players vying for 10 or 11 spots.
4. Who has had the best offseason?
What Pearl will say: Pearl is pleased with the senior leadership provided by Goins, while Williams' weight loss and Hopson's summertime travels to elite camps have been well-documented. Tatum also has had a strong offseason. The work ethic has been contagious, as other players have followed suit.
What Pearl won't say: Goins could be one of the biggest surprises in the SEC having played last season at less than 100 percent after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in October (2009) and missing games as a result of the Jan. 1 traffic stop. Williams and Hopson put in hard work, but the proof will be in the consistency of their performances. Both players know they have doubters, and how they answer them could ultimately decide UT's season.
5. How good can this team be?
What Pearl will say: The goal each year is to win the SEC East, but with Florida returning a veteran front line and Kentucky adding another marquee recruiting class, UT won't be picked to finish higher than third in the East. This is still a top-25 program, but it's too early to project how far UT could advance in the NCAA tournament.
What Pearl won't say: This team has more potential than any of Pearl's previous squads. Hopson and Harris are future NBA players, Goins bring a necessary swagger and toughness to the point, and the Vols' front line is as big, physical and deep as any they'll face.