The question was routine and the answers evolved into one.
We're going to talk about it.
Haven't decided yet.
Lockwood recalled a real favorite: "Game-day decision."
While the give-and-take didn't approach Abbott-and-Costello hilarity, there was some amusement in its regularity. The number of answers almost matched the eight different combinations utilized this season. And that constituted progress, considering UT deployed 11 different starting lineups last season.
The coaches weren't being evasive. They didn't know — until now.
The Lady Vols, No. 2 seeds in the Des Moines Regional, will start the NCAA tournament against No. 15 UT Martin at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 4:10 p.m.) with the same five senior starters — Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen, Vicki Baugh, Alicia Manning and Briana Bass — that they've utilized the past four games.
The Lady Vols (24-8) and Skyhawks (23-8) will play for a spot in the second round on Monday against the DePaul-BYU winner.
Lockwood conceded that a starting lineup created for Senior Day might not have been ideal in November.
But after an inconsistent regular season, it's not so farfetched to put the responsibility for a postseason game's start squarely on the shoulders of Tennessee's most experienced players. At least that's what three solid
victories at the SEC tournament seemed to suggest
"It's our fault if we don't start out strong," Johnson said. "I love it."
Johnson was speaking for herself. Judging by teammate Stricklen's scoring struggles in the first half at the SEC tournament (two points in three games) the affection varies from senior to senior. That's where Tennessee reserves come into play.
"There's an expectation," sophomore guard Meighan Simmons said, "that we have to go out there and do just as good (as the seniors)."
Sorting through the substitutes has been as challenging as deciding on starters. To begin with, the coaches had to adapt this process to their expanded roles under head coach Pat Summitt, who was diagnosed in August with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
"I think that's one area where we've ironed it out a little bit better," Lockwood said. "Put it this way: as the season has gone on, I think our communication has improved in that area."
Lockwood said that while associate head coach Holly Warlick and Summitt are manning the team huddles, he and fellow assistant Mickie DeMoss confer about substitutions. They then run their thoughts by Summitt.
"It's still a whole staff thing," Lockwood said.
The coaches second-guessed themselves for not playing Baugh in the second half of a 72-71 overtime loss to Arkansas on Feb. 23. But a week later, their SEC tournament decisions were largely above reproach, based on the results.
"It's probably one of the hardest things for coaches to communicate and for players to hear and embrace," Lockwood said. "We need everyone to be ready but at the same time we're going to make game decisions. When we see how the flow of the game is going and we see who's being productive (then) that player or those groups of players are probably going to get more minutes."
In other words, it's a game-day decision.
Dan Fleser covers Lady Vols basketball. Follow him on Twitter: @fleserKNS