Vols get rematch with Arkansas in SEC tournament opener

Tennessee's Josh Bone and John Fields, left to right, dribble during practice at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. The Vols take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday evening during the SEC Tournament.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee's Josh Bone and John Fields, left to right, dribble during practice at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., on Wednesday, March 9, 2011. The Vols take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday evening during the SEC Tournament.

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.

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Comments » 53

CoverOrange writes:

If Williams is still hobbled we'll get out rebounded in the paint again. Fields has started out like he a man on a mission the last few games but gets yanked after 3 minutes and never comes back.

VOLliven2it writes:

This is it, time to step up, grow up and get it done team. Anything less would mean 10 seed if any at all in the NCAA. Go Vols!

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

And which team will show up . Nobody Knows. Jekyll and Hyde team.

FeelVol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

If Williams is still hobbled we'll get out rebounded in the paint again. Fields has started out like he a man on a mission the last few games but gets yanked after 3 minutes and never comes back.

Yea I don't understand why that happens as well he has never really been given enough of a chance to me another of Pearls coaching traits that mystify me.

iowavol writes:

We're not playing at home - I like our chances.

arkyvol writes:

in response to iowavol:

We're not playing at home - I like our chances.

hope you're right. the hogs are 1-0 against kentucky this year, the vols are 0-2. the hogs are 1-0 against the vols.

volstokke writes:

This team drives me crazy everytime I watch them. We look good in some games and others we find a way to lose. If UT goes one and done in the SEC tournament I cant see how we even get in.

BleedN_OrangE writes:

dont matter...they are miles away from home...think we will see a whole new team...keep focused...stay the coarse...be a bunch of guys on a mission...and we will be in good shape..

VOLKING writes:

Uh-oh. Vols playing the Hogs in the Georgia Dome. Sounds familiar. We were supposed to win then as well. Practice your free throws fellas.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

damn;
vandy, UF, UT all on the same side of the bracket?? just me, or is his a crock??

tnvol4ever writes:

in response to dead_vol_foul:

damn;
vandy, UF, UT all on the same side of the bracket?? just me, or is his a crock??

Ky loss was huge as far as seeding. Very tough bracket but we beat or played right with every team in it. If we make it to sat or sun we could make some noise in the NCAA. If we lose the 1st game or get blown out in the 2nd game. I'm afraid the NCAA if we get there will not be a pleasant trip. GBO

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I've finally figured out that I'm not going to figure out this team...doesn't mean anything really, well as far as I can figure it doesn't. Go figure.

One_in_West_Knox writes:

Is Cameron Tatum going to fill his quota for a field goal or two (perhaps a dunk to be highlighted on ESPN) early in the game and then not show up for the rest of the game...AGAIN??
And how is Steven Pearl, a FIFTH-YEAR senior who admits he can't shoot well (WHAT HAS HE BEEN DOING IN PRACTICE AND IN BETWEEN SEASONS ALL THESE YEARS??), going to perform??
Do the Vols now see that it's pretty much "WIN OR GO HOME"??

Madkels writes:

One and done I'm afraid.

oldorange writes:

Many people really enjoy it when their team wins all games. However, there are some that really enjoy when the going gets tough and all the "children" leave the fan group and begin disparaging the team, coach and players. Damn, I love March..........

GreeneVol writes:

'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.'

That's some Memorial 'Madness' right there. I had no clue. What do you think about that, CantStandSabin? Now why would Griff want to bring that up at the very end - is he trying to give you a hard time??

In the past I've said bowing out early in this tourney is a good thing for getting fresh legs for the big dance, but I think this time around our guys need to go as far as possible for confidence' sake...Good Luck in ATL, Big Orange.

UkJarhead writes:

Good Luck Vols. Would love to meet in the Finals. I have a question about the headline though. Rematch? Isn't every game in the SEC Tourney a rematch? We do all play each other during the year. Silly.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to PearlMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So...does this mean you'll no longer post?lol

brokendownoldvol writes:

This team is all talk and nothing else.

VOLHEAD writes:

This team can win, but they need to:
1. Hit majority of 3 pointers
2. Hit majority of free throws
3. Minimize turnovers
4. Rebound better
5. Stop giving up the baseline down low

If they do these things (basic fundamentals) they will win

GONAVY writes:

in response to GreeneVol:

'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.'

That's some Memorial 'Madness' right there. I had no clue. What do you think about that, CantStandSabin? Now why would Griff want to bring that up at the very end - is he trying to give you a hard time??

In the past I've said bowing out early in this tourney is a good thing for getting fresh legs for the big dance, but I think this time around our guys need to go as far as possible for confidence' sake...Good Luck in ATL, Big Orange.

Go easy on the Commodores. Actually they have made the semi's 4 times since the 12 team membership was created, missing the championship game once by a 3 point loss, I think (I'm getting old). That's peanuts compared to others, true. As for SC, they haven't won the tournament nor placed well in it either- but, under Fogler, they won the outright championship I think in '97 with a 15-1 regular season record. That's the best record in many many years in the SEC. Anyway, the tournament should be fun. I only see UK getting to the championship game because of their weak bracket. It's a shame UT, UF and VU are thrown in the same bracket. Those three and UK would make a whale of a semi final!

dcap8424 writes:

in response to VOLHEAD:

This team can win, but they need to:
1. Hit majority of 3 pointers
2. Hit majority of free throws
3. Minimize turnovers
4. Rebound better
5. Stop giving up the baseline down low

If they do these things (basic fundamentals) they will win

basic fundamentals... lol. I think all fundamentals are basic.

No team hits a majority of their 3s by the way. Not on any consistent basis.

carbonzip writes:

Let the starters play until they are exhausted. Maybe, they'll work out ways to win.

huntined#565710 writes:

VOTE FOR ANGIE TODAY!!

VolBy3 writes:

in response to VOLHEAD:

This team can win, but they need to:
1. Hit majority of 3 pointers
2. Hit majority of free throws
3. Minimize turnovers
4. Rebound better
5. Stop giving up the baseline down low

If they do these things (basic fundamentals) they will win

Following your list does not mean they will win.

You just have to score 1 more point than the other team. It doesn't matter how you do it. If they do that, they WILL win.

Smokey_Chow writes:

in response to brokendownoldvol:

This team is all talk and nothing else.

I think this is a kind of ingnorant statement.

I would agree if the Vols consistently lost to every ok team... but they haven't. Sure they haven't done extremely well this year but they did knock off a handfull of highly ranked teams this year and played other high ranked teams extremely close.

Like i said, we haven't been great or even good in some games but to say they are all talk and nothing else would imply that they haven't done anything. Vols are still #36 in RPI. that's not from talk....

volinuptonky writes:

Win one game at a time. Because of our depth we could actually win this thing and I would not put it past the schizophrenic team. They seem to show up when they are not at home. The only road game that they did not show up at was KY, but nobody beat KY at home this year.

volscantball writes:

Either Pearl or Pelphrey coaches their last SEC game here. I look for the Vols to prevail. As disappointing as they have been they are still better than Arkansas top to bottom.

MrsFish writes:

in response to volinuptonky:

Win one game at a time. Because of our depth we could actually win this thing and I would not put it past the schizophrenic team. They seem to show up when they are not at home. The only road game that they did not show up at was KY, but nobody beat KY at home this year.

Ha ha ha!! I would have to agree that schizophrenic is the best term used to describe this team this year. Hopefully they can harness that "madness" to go deep in March Madness. GO VOLS!!

PattheFlaVol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

If Williams is still hobbled we'll get out rebounded in the paint again. Fields has started out like he a man on a mission the last few games but gets yanked after 3 minutes and never comes back.

why isn't Fields playing more?

utk1996 writes:

They should shoot no more than ten threes per game (and that is ten too many). Let Hopson and Goins take it to the hole and let Harris clean up and play his game 10-15 feet from the basket. Get to the line, make foul shots. Use athleticism. No jump shots and threes. If they play like they played the last five minutes at Vandy, they can beat anyone. If they shoot 25 threes and then sulk on defense because they are clanging those threes off the rim, then they will lose because again, they are clanging threes and not getting to the line (and probably pouting and playing uninspired defense). We'll see who shows up.

Smokey_Chow writes:

they've got all the early Tourney games on Gametracker so if you are like me you get to watch (sort of) from work!

http://www.smokeychow.com/2011/03/wat...

dmcintosh writes:

Why are the day games on WVLT (HD) and the night games, including UT, are on MyVLT (non-HD)?

Outdated writes:

I have seen enough to make me believe this team can play with anybody...or get beat by anybody..but I don't believe we can be at our best w/o Bryan Williams playing like he did last year in the NCAA...I think this is our key or lack of a key to beating tournament teams..

Outdated writes:

Night Games on MVLT may have to do with advertisement dollars..

utk1996 writes:

This team proves how important the PG position is.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Frustrations need to be pushed aside and fans who are able need to go to ATL to support/encourage our guys. I hope we get the loyal 6th man out in large numbers! Go Vols!

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

The game can be seen live at http://espn.go.com/espn3/index. Just hook it up to your TV!

NYvolFan writes:

in response to dmcintosh:

Why are the day games on WVLT (HD) and the night games, including UT, are on MyVLT (non-HD)?

That's what I was just going to post. What a joke. Entertainment Tonight and Big Bang Theory fans get Hi-Def and VOL fans don't. Everybody should bombard the station via telephone. I have. 450-8888. Just do it.

The_Mayor writes:

- Shoot from beyond the 3pt line at a minimum, and NEVER before at least 3 offensive passes.

- DEFENSE

- Rebound

- FREEthrows

Vols win, not only vs. AR, but they put themselves in a position to beat any team in the country.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to VOLHEAD:

This team can win, but they need to:
1. Hit majority of 3 pointers
2. Hit majority of free throws
3. Minimize turnovers
4. Rebound better
5. Stop giving up the baseline down low

If they do these things (basic fundamentals) they will win

If they could all of those things,there would not be a discussion as to them getting into the dance.

CommodoreCapital writes:

Is this Pearl's last game as coach if UT loses?

PennVol writes:

I hope we finally get our act together and play like we were at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, I'm not very confident that Pearl and this team have magically corrected all of their problems since Sunday when they've had 3 months to have done it. We're capable of one and done but also capable of winning the SEC tourney. Hopson has to score 18 or better and Williams has to play well for the Vols to win (any game).

Does anyone think the NCAA will keep the Vols out of the NCAAs due to the investigation? You know, an extra kick while we're struggling?

MothershipChip writes:

Go Vols! Take down the Hogs tonight and we have the opportunity to show the conference and the naysayers what were made of against the Gators tomorrow!!!

usnavyvolfaninva_still_getting_paid writes:

in response to CommodoreCapital:

Is this Pearl's last game as coach if UT loses?

Uh, I'll take that one...NO! If they don't make the NCAA, they'll definitely go to the NIT. Really, you asked that question??

DoolanderVol (Inactive) writes:

in response to PearlMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Move over Coach K, Pearl, Calipari, Calhoun, and Matta. PearlMustGo will soon be taking over your jobs with all the basketball knowledge he has. Come on NCAA basketball teams, Hire this guy.

murrayvol writes:

in response to dead_vol_foul:

damn;
vandy, UF, UT all on the same side of the bracket?? just me, or is his a crock??

It's the way the chips fell. Maybe some changes next year. Maybe not.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

The commentators will NOT talk about game action tonight! Mute buttons are great!

jerseydevilvol writes:

Sure hope Chris Jones is all he's cracked up to be because Golden can't make a lay up to save his life. I know Golden is young and all but come on, some of those lay ups he's missing are unguarded. This team is going to be in some trouble when Hopson and Harris are gone, especially with no talented big men and no shooters, it's scary to think about.

VOL_MAROONED_IN_NC writes:

This is my team-or my school's team-but without a doubt these are the laziest, stupidest, most unmotivated people I have ever seen in my life. And that, my friends, is a direct reflection on our loud mouth, attention seeking, vulgar coach. I dont know what the next minute will do to Tennessee's NCAA bubble but I am praying that Pearl and Hamilton's bubbles will explode and dump them down the drain very soon.

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