LAHAINA, Hawaii — ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said Tennessee fans will need to be patient, but Memphis coach Josh Pastner isn’t expecting the Vols to drop off.
Bilas, who emceed the EA Sports Maui Invitational news conference at the Sheraton Resort on Sunday morning, said UT’s game Monday (TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN2) against No. 6 Duke (4-0) is not so much a barometer as an opportunity.
“I don’t think people can reasonably expect great things this year given all the program has been through in the last year,” Bilas said. “But they have some capable players and they go as hard as anybody.
“Tennessee starts with a tough opponent, but it’s a good opportunity.”
The Vols (2-0) will play again on Tuesday, at 2 p.m. or at 7 p.m. against No. 17 Michigan (3-0) or No. 10 Memphis (1-0).
Pastner said he’s not expecting the Vols to be a pushover in this tournament or the regular season when the teams meet on Jan. 4 in Memphis.
“Everyone thinks Tennessee is going to fall off. I told everyone, ‘Hey, they still have really good players,’ ” Pastner said on Sunday. “Cuonzo, Coach Martin, can obviously flat-out coach, there is no denying that, and he is going to get really good players.
“There’s not going to be any drop off at Tennessee; Tennessee is going to be at a very high level as long as Cuonzo is there. Coach (Bruce) Pearl did a great job, and Cuonzo will keep it at a very high level,” he said. “I think all the Vols fans should know they are in good hands with Cuonzo. Not only is he a really good coach, he’s a fantastic human being.”
Maui Magic?: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s 12-0 at the EA Sports Maui Invitational, had a simple explanation for the Blue Devils’ championships in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2007.
“We’ve had good teams that have come here,” he said. “This team is probably the most inexperienced of the ones that I’ve brought, but it’s a good squad, hopefully it will become a really good squad.
“But there’s no secret. Having (Bobby) Hurley or Grant Hill, or Wojo (Steve Wojciechowski) or (Shane) Battier, those guys, that’s how you win, with good players performing well.”
Duke traditionally has one of the biggest followings at the tournament.
“It’s a treat for our fans, and that’s one of the reasons you do it, to give your program this type of exposure and give your fans an opportunity to be here,” Krzyzewski said.
As of Sunday, only Michigan and Tennessee hadn’t sold out their ticket allotment.
“I know Pat fairly well, I’ve admired her and she’s built a great, great program there,” he said. “She’s done more for women’s basketball than any other coach. She’s not just been a great coach, she’s been an ambassador for the women’s game.”
UT Orange And Blue: The Vols are the visiting team for today’s game and are expected to wear their orange uniforms. UT’s look will be different, however, as they will be wearing light blue shoes as part of an adidas promotion. Martin said it’s his understanding all of the adidas schools as the tournament, which includes Kansas, Michigan and Chaminade, will be wearing the promotional shoes.
Recruiting Battles: Pastner said the Vols are building good relationships recruiting in Memphis.
“(Martin) has done a great job coming into Memphis and recruiting,” Pastner said. “Everybody likes him. We’re going have to battle. One thing about Memphis, it’s not just going to be Tennessee, the entire SEC wants to come in and recruit Memphis. We’re battling every day, not just Tennessee, but every school.”
The Vols are going against Memphis, Arkansas and Kentucky in the recruitment of 6-foot-8, 240-pound Class of 2012 prospect Jarnell Stokes.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32