ATLANTA - You can call them psycho, refer to them as inconsistent or tag them as being up and down.
It doesn't seem to matter to this Tennessee team what people think.
"Psycho? Is that what we are?'' Vols coach Bruce Pearl said with a grin at the SEC men's basketball tournament press conference Wednesday at the Georgia Dome. "I just want to be sure I heard that right.''
Tennessee (18-13) enters tonight's first-round game (TV: MyVLT, 7:30 p.m.) against Western Division No. 4-seed Arkansas (18-12) as one of the harder teams to figure.
UT finished a modest fifth in the SEC East after skyrocketing to a No. 7 national ranking in mid-December.
The Vols carry a No. 36 RPI despite losing six of their past nine games, leaving prognosticators stumped as to where they should be seeded in the NCAA tournament. UT is penciled in as anywhere from a No. 6 to a No. 10 seed heading into tonight's game.
For a team that appears to be such a mystery, Tennessee seemed quite comfortable with itself Wednesday.
"This team's personality is toughness and confidence, guys each and every day are trying to progress,'' All-SEC guard Scotty Hopson said. "I think that's what keeps us bouncing back and resilient.
"I guess our backs are kind of against the wall at times, but at the same time . . . we came out here to win a championship, and that's what we're going to do.''
The Razorbacks, 68-65 winners over UT in both teams' SEC opener on Jan. 8 in Fayetteville, Ark., feel their share of pressure, too.
Arkansas is No. 118 in the RPI rankings, and it's unlikely that anything short of an SEC tournament title will get them an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
There also have been rumblings about John Pelphrey's job security, as the fourth-year coach has not gotten the Razorbacks into the NCAA tournament since his first season.
Pelphrey handled questions about his job security in stride on Wednesday.
"I'm confident that I know what I'm doing,'' Pelphrey said. "I've been through this as a player, I've been through this as an assistant coach, I've been through this as a head coach . . . It's not a first for me.
"I know what's getting ready to happen. I'm excited about having a chance to finish the race.''
Pearl, who did not coach the teams' first meeting because he was serving the first of an eight-game SEC suspension, said the Vols are ready to get off to a fast start in the postseason, too.
"We know where we're sitting, and it may be in (the NCAA tournament), but it's not a done deal,'' said Pearl, whose UT teams are 4-3 against Arkansas during his six-season tenure. "We're going to look at it like we got work to do here to improve our seeding, and to compete for a championship.''
Tough Draw: The Vols have a tough road ahead if they're to win their first SEC tournament championship since 1979.
The winner of tonight's UT-Arkansas game advances to play SEC regular-season champion and 12th-ranked Florida (24-6) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
The other teams on the Vols' side of the bracket are LSU (11-20) and Vanderbilt (21-9), which play at 10 p.m. tonight, and Western Division No. 2 seed Mississippi State (17-13), which has a bye.
Kentucky (22-8), ranked 15th, is considered the favorite to come out of the other side of the bracket.
UT freshman Tobias Harris said the Vols aren't looking that far ahead.
"As a team, this is where we need to peak and just reach the highest of our abilities,'' Harris said." Just gain some confidence and really work hard as a team and play together, and I think we'll be fine.''
Williams Return: Pearl said center Brian Williams likely won't be used as much as he was before injuring his back in a Feb. 26 loss to Mississippi State and missing eight days of practice.
"I don't know how much he'll play in that first game or when exactly he'll get his first rotation, but it won't be like it was before he was out,'' Pearl said. "It's amazing sometimes what a couple of weeks off can do to your timing and conditioning. If he plays well in his rotations, he can play more.''
Goins a Go: Point guard Melvin Goins returned to the practice on Wednesday after missing Tuesday's practice in Knoxville on account of the flu.
The Spread: UT has opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite over Arkansas.
Hopson Honor: Hopson was named second-team All-District 21 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The 12 SEC schools make up NABC District 21, and there are 24 districts.
Did you know: Every team in the league has won the SEC tournament since the Vols captured it in 1979 except South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
The Commodores haven't even been to the finals since winning the SEC tournament in 1951, the season before they began play in Memorial Gym.