Pearl's plan for Saturday, his first SEC game suspension
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl took a long look around Bud Walton Arena following the Vols' shoot-around session Friday night.
"This is harder than I thought it would be,'' Pearl said. "I don't have any impassioned speech for the guys. I want to keep things as normal as possible. I haven't even brought it up.''
The "it" to which Pearl refers is the eight-game SEC suspension he will begin serving while the Vols (10-4) play Arkansas (10-3) today (TV: WVLT, 1:30 p.m.).
SEC commissioner Mike Slive imposed the penalty in November after reviewing the facts surrounding the ongoing NCAA investigation into the Tennessee men's basketball program.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton was at the shootaround Friday and clarified how stringent the enforcement of the suspension will be.
"There will be no direct nor indirect contact in team-related activities on the day of the game,'' Hamilton said. "Coach will watch the game in the (hotel) banquet room.''
The team bus will pick up Pearl at the team hotel en route to the airport after the Vols' game with the Razorbacks is finished.
UT senior center Brian Williams said the players haven't had any team meetings or even discussed Pearl's pending courtside absence as being an issue.
"It hasn't really dawned on us, and I don't think it will until game time,'' Williams said. "Individually, we have to step up and follow whatever Coach (Tony) Jones tells us.
"Coach Jones is calm, cool and collected.''
Jones, the Vols' associate head coach and a 10-year assistant to Pearl, has said the game plan won't be any different, and the idea is to keep things business as usual.
Arkansas, however, has a way of making that difficult on opponents, especially in Bud Walton Arena, where the Razorbacks are 9-0 this season.
"Their game is really suited for them to be a great home team,'' Pearl said. "They shoot good at home, they block shots, they run and they are super dunkers.
"They get tremendous fuel from those things, and those energy plays can make this a loud place to play.''
Pearl said Arkansas prefers to play aggressive man-to-man defense and "disrupt you and force turnovers,'' but he said there's a possibility the Razorbacks could play some zone.
"It's possible, and if they do it will be because of their scout that we're not a good 3-point team, but zone is not their M.O.,'' Pearl said. "Memphis tried to play some zone on us, and we shot them out of it. We'll see.''
Pearl will see while watching the game from the team hotel with his wife, Brandy, and UT associate athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois.
"I'll be taking notes every possession,'' Pearl said. "But after (Thursday) night, I'll get up (today) and begin work on Florida (Tuesday's opponent). There's really nothing more I can do.''
RPI Talk: The Vols' current RPI is 21, according to RealTimeRpi.com, and their schedule strength is ranked No. 7 in the nation.
While playing Arkansas (RPI 142) isn't likely to provide much of a boost today, UT's next two games (9 p.m. Tuesday vs. Florida and noon Saturday vs. Vanderbilt, both in Knoxville) will help the Vols' RPI.
The Gators' current RPI is 15 and the Commodores' is 16.
Lights Please: When the Vols arrived for their walk-through at Bud Walton Arena, the court was not well-lighted.
The first explanation a UT representative received was that they don't turn the game lights on until the game, and that Arkansas regularly practiced in similar lighting.
Vols director of basketball operations Ken Johnson persisted and found someoneto turn on the game lighting.
Jones' Attire: Jones has received numerous suggestions as to what to wear for the game, but insists he'll keep his outfit toned down.
"Of course there will be some orange,'' said Jones, who was ranked in the so-called "Fashionable Four" of best-dressed coaches by collegeinsider.com. "It will be a little different, but not too much.''
While an assistant to Pearl at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jones once wore a yellow suit in a televised game.