Spring practice isn't just for football.
The celebratory fires in Lexington are still smoldering. Tennessee, like many of the other 343 men's basketball teams that didn't win a national championship, is back at work.
"It is tough,'' UT's Skylar McBee said Thursday, his legs wobbly from a grueling workout, "but that's what you sign up for.''
Teams are allowed limited spring workouts in small groups and the Vols are being put through their paces, complete with weight vests and heavy basketballs.
"We want to work on a little bit of everything,'' said assistant coach Tracy Webster, "but we want to emphasize the things we think they really need to improve on.''
In Josh Richardson's case, that includes a heavy dose of ball-handling, pointing him toward more involvement at point guard.
While workouts are catered to individual needs, it's never too early to project the team picture.
After a 19-15 season and a surprising second-place finish in the SEC regular season, Tennessee will be cast in a different role in coach Cuonzo Martin's second season.
"We're not going to sneak up on anybody any more,'' said Richardson.
Apparently not. Several websites have published preseason Top 25 lists for the 2012-13 season and the Vols are getting some notice.
ESPN's Andy Katz ranked UT No. 24 in his early, early poll. Yahoo.com placed the Vols at No. 22. The Sporting News lists UT at No. 28.
"If we need any more motivation besides that,'' said Richardson, "I don't know what to tell us.''
A year ago the Vols were getting their first look at a new coaching staff. The team had lost 75 percent of its scoring and 70 percent of its minutes.
The picture has flip-flopped.
Martin's second team will return 81 percent of its scoring and 78 percent of its minutes.
Several SEC rivals, meanwhile, are being gutted by graduation and the NBA draft, most notably Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
Kentucky will reload and be a top-five team again but the Vols are grateful for some familiarity.
"Our chemistry,'' said McBee, "will be a whole lot better. It'll be our second year getting to play with everybody.''
Toward that end, an August trip to Italy will provide a jump-start. Three incoming signees will be on board, along with redshirt freshman Quenton Chievous.
"I want to thank the whole coaching staff for staying on me when I didn't want to go to practice, knowing I wasn't going to play,'' Chievous said Thursday.
"They really put me through it.''
They still are.