March 15, 2011

Vols get to work on Wolverines

A day after learning their seeding and destination in this week's NCAA tournament Tennessee got down to the business of preparing for their date with Michigan on Friday afternoon in Charlotte. The early stages of the game plan coming together on Monday were the result of a cram-session of Wolverine game tape, study that had already given Bruce Pearl a healthy respect for the challenge his team is up against.

The Vols' head coach had plenty to say in regards to the 'X and O' quotient beating the Wolverines will require, but one of the things that jumped out at the six recent games he studied between the selection show and the start of practice was simply that he didn't see a lot of losses.

John Beilien's team finished the year on a decidedly different note that Pearl's Vols, winning 7 of their last 11, allowing them to overcome a brutal 1-5 start to Big Ten play. That start had Michigan a long way from any tourney talk in January, but now they're quietly one of the hotter teams in the field.

Tennessee on the other hand is decidedly not, hot that is. The Vols are 4-7 in their last 11 games, and as has been pointed out in this space and many others, haven't won back-to-back games since a three-game winning streak against Ole Miss, LSU and Auburn that ended all the way back on Feb. 3.

"They're one of the hotter teams in the tournament, they've won 7 of their last 11 and they're playing well. You can see that they're comfortable with their roles, comfortable with what they're doing, playing with a lot of confidence," Pearl said of the Vols' opening opponent in their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

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