It's 2013 — the year of the snake on the Chinese calendar.
And unbeknownst to Tennessee forwards Quinton Chievous and D'Montre Edwards, that devilish serpent apparently slithered along and stole their minutes.
Since the chill of January arrived, the two have combined to play 11 minutes in three appearances. Before that? Chievous played in nine of UT's 11 games, averaging 11.2 minutes per showing. Edwards mirrored that playing time, seeing 11.1 minutes in nine appearances.
Chievous and Edwards were already roommates off the floor, now the two live together on the bench.
Asked why during his weekly media luncheon Monday, coach Cuonzo Martin plainly responded, "Multiple things on defense — reading those back screens, down screens, identifying situations defensively. That's probably the biggest key."
In other words: No defense, no minutes.
Edwards scurried off the bench for a brief — and rare — appearance in the Vols' loss at Arkansas on Saturday. He was whistled for a foul 13 seconds later and back on the bench after two minutes.
Edwards drew the dreaded "Did Not Play —Coach's Decision" in six straight games before Saturday. Chievous has done the same in eight straight.
"It's been hard, going from playing a lot to, you know, just not playing," Edwards said.
Among the talking points in Tennessee's preseason sales pitch were Chievous, a redshirt freshman, and Edwards, a junior college transfer, being emerging forwards. They were said to bring scoring, rebounding and depth — all qualities the Vols (11-9, 3-5 SEC) could sorely use right now.
After sitting out all of 2011-12 as a redshirt, Chievous led the Vols with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in this season's preseason scrimmage against Victory. With an even mix of pleasure and relief, he afterward declared, "all my hard work has finally paid off."
It translated to early season action. Chievous scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in a season-high 23 minutes against Massachusetts. Those minutes slowly trailed off over time.
Edwards, meanwhile, played double-digit minutes against the likes of Oklahoma State and Georgetown. He established career highs in points (11) and minutes (18) in a win over Presbyterian in mid-December.
He's played in three games since.
Of Edwards, Martin said Monday, "He's a small forward for us right now, so he'd be backing up Josh (Richardson) in games. It's really just him having the confidence to get out there and play and feel good about himself."
Asked how confidence can be gained, Edwards presented the catch-22, "Of course more time out there on the court would help.
"But at the same time," he continued, "I've just got to keep believing in myself. Every time I get out there, whether it's one second or 10 minutes, just go hard as I can."
Golden update: Tennessee point guard Trae Golden (strained hamstring) did not practice Monday. Martin said he's listed as "day-to-day" with a home game against Georgia (10-11, 4-4) approaching Wednesday. The junior traveled with the team for Saturday's loss at Arkansas, but did not dress for the game.
Golden had appeared in 54 straight games for UT prior to the weekend.
Richardson in town: Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson will speak to the Big Orange TipOff Club at noon on Wednesday at Calhoun's On The River. The College Basketball Hall of Fame member led the Razorbacks to the 1994 national title.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn