January 4th, 2011 10:34 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Tennessee
Tags: RPI, Thompson Boling Arena, UT, UTM
The Tennessee basketball team will host cross-state rival Memphis tomorrow night at Thompson-Boling Arena. It will be the last time Bruce Pearl sits on the Vols’ bench for 17 days. UT’s coach will begin his eight-game SEC suspension on Saturday when the Volunteers travel to Arkansas.
And his departure could not come at a worse time for his team.
In the preseason, Tennessee lost an exhibition game to Division II Indianapolis. That should have served as a warning sign to all in orange. Instead, most assumed that the game would simply serve as a wake-up call for a UT team brimming with newcomers. As the Vols rolled off seven straight victories, won the preseason NIT, beat Villanova and Pittsburgh away from home, and climbed to #1 in the RPI ratings… that assessment appeared to be correct.
But then things changed.
Since December 14th, Tennessee has looked much more like the team that lost to Indianapolis than the team that defeated ‘Nova and Pitt. The Vols have dropped four of six games including losses to Oakland, Charlotte, Southern Cal and College of Charleston (by 13 points at home). Their wins in that stretch were a one-pointer over Belmont and a six-pointer over UT-Martin. UTM had lost 100-40 to Ohio State in its previous outing.
Pearl has admitted that he’s struggled to find a good rotation for his team. With no consistency on either end of the floor, the UT staff has decided this week that they will begin to hand out playing time based on defensive effort first and foremost. Sounds like a smart move, but Pearl won’t on the bench often as the plan is implemented.
Congrats (that’s sarcasm) to assistant coach Tony Jones who’ll take over at a time when no one knows for sure which Vols should be on the court together. Talk about inheriting a mess.
Here’s the schedule UT and Jones will be up against:
Memphis (with Pearl)
at UConn (with Pearl)
at Ole Miss
Pearl will return full-time to UT’s bench on February 8th at Kentucky. By the time he returns, the Vols (currently 9-4) might need a miracle run to reach their sixth straight NCAA tourney.
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