Basketball gets first dibs on practice times and facilities.
Tennessee drew the toughest schedule in the SEC in the scramble to squeeze in newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri — both of whom are really good.
TV games have brutalized travel plans.
To all of which Tennessee volleyball coach Rob Patrick says ...
Bring it on.
"Our team right now has a lot of confidence,'' Patrick said Thursday as the defending SEC champions opened practice.
The Lady Vols should be confident. Everyone of note is back from the team that went 28-4, including 19-1 in claiming the program's first outright SEC title. That includes SEC player of the year Kelsey Robinson.
It also includes DeeDee Harrison, Leslie Cikra, Mary Pollmiller and Tiffany Baker, all of who were some level of All-SEC honorees in 2011.
Then there's Kayla Jeter, the 2010 All-SEC pick who returns after missing the season due to knee surgery.
Mix in freshman recruits and two transfers, Olivia Okoro from UCLA and Whitney Heeres from Ball State.
Patrick can't wait to enjoy the newfound depth in practice and during the season. He expects to reap the benefits in December when the NCAA tournament plays out.
For the past three years, UT has been eliminated in the second round by a Big Ten team. Last year it was Ohio State.
"We want to win a national championship,'' Patrick said. "The big disappointment in our program is losing in the second round.
"We were pretty thin last year. It's a long season and we lost our legs at the end.''
Tennessee is a unanimous pick to win the 2012 SEC title. Newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri could have something to say about that.
"They're both really good,'' Patrick said. "They will be in the top half of the conference right away. And that's saying a lot.''
Tennessee opens the season Aug. 24.