Pearl said he'll need every minute of every day to get the No. 9-seeded Vols (19-14) ready for their NCAA tournament opener against No. 8-seeded Michigan (20-13) on Friday (TV: truTV, 12:40 p.m.) at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.
“Michigan is a very very tough matchup, and a very interesting opponent,'' Pearl said on Monday's SEC coaches teleconference. “Their style of play is as unique as I've seen in a long time.''
The Wolverines run a motion offense with principles similar to Princeton's, while on defense they use an effective 1-3-1 zone.
Pearl said Michigan's somewhat unconventional approach will lead to some very important practices for UT this week.
“We'll need the time,'' he said. “It's as unique a preparation as there is in college basketball.''
Pearl said the Vols will need to break their recent trend of letting down in the second half, and vocal leadership and attention to detail will be key.
“We have lost a lot of leads in the second half, but we've probably won more of those games than we have lost,'' Pearl said. “But our second-half defense has not been as good, because when the defense is in front of my bench, we can coach them up a bit, help communicate, help anticipate what's coming.''
Teams play defense in front of their bench in the first half, and away from their bench in the second half.
“As far as the killer instinct is concerned. I would say maybe coming out of halftime we have to play with a great deal of energy in order to be effective with what we do and sometimes guys are more excited about starting a game than starting a half,'' he said. “We've got to find a way to have that same kind of intensity, and not take three or four possessions before we get ourselves warmed up a bit.''
Pearl said his players will need to be vocal in their communication on defense, and Pearl acknowledged the Vols have not had a strong vocal leader since Dane Bradshaw played for him 2006-07.
“I think Dane was a glue guy, and he made the CBS all-glue teams and things like that, and he was a great leader and a great communicator, and we don't have that,'' Pearl said. “There are other strengths we have, but certainly that leadership on the floor, that vocal leadership, would be something we miss.''