A schedule can play tricks on you. It's important to remember that in tracking the downward course of Tennessee's basketball team.
A four-game losing streak and a 0-3 start in SEC play might suggest the Vols are falling so fast they won't even warrant NIT-bubble status by the 20th game.
Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not touting the Vols as "a team you don't want to face in March," just pointing out the obvious. Their 0-3 record has been distorted by a schedule that sent them on the road in two of their first three games and also included a home game against surprisingly capable Ole Miss.
UT fans should remember from football season how misleading a taxing early schedule could be.
The 2012 football schedule forced the Vols to play their first five conference games against nationally ranked opponents. Based on that 0-5 start, you might have assumed the worse: the team would be lucky to beat anyone above Kentucky, wouldn't qualify for a bowl and would leave athletic director Dave Hart searching for a new coach.
On second thought, maybe that's a bad example.
Here's a better one. In 1997-98, coach Jerry Green's first Tennessee team lost five of its first six SEC games, including one each to Kentucky and Florida, while providing compelling evidence that it was headed for a sixth consecutive losing season.
The early evidence proved deceptive. The Vols regained their footing when the schedule took a softer turn and won 20 games for the first time in 13 years, qualifying for the NCAA tournament in the process.
The schedule isn't a cure-all, though. Inept teams often maintain their ineptitude regardless of the rise and fall in competition.
But not all losing streaks are alike. UT's current team could have beaten Alabama last week and played well throughout much of Tuesday night's 75-65 loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Only the 92-74 defeat at home against a hot Ole Miss team was alarming.
UT will have a rematch against the Rebels next week in Oxford, Miss. Aside from that, the next few weeks of schedule are much more inviting, starting with Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Bulldogs are 2-1 in the SEC (compliments victories over Georgia and South Carolina) but 7-8 overall.
Four of UT's next eight games will be against teams who have won one SEC game combined. So there's an opportunity for Tennessee to change its conference course.
And prove that an 0-3 start says more about its schedule than its ability.