Pressing engagement?

A lot of folks are eager to see how Tennessee's retooled basketball lineup performs in tonight's 7:30 exhibition tipoff against Brevard (N.C.) College ... including head coach Bruce Pearl.

- How will heralded freshmen Tobias Harris and Jordan McRae respond to starting their college debuts?

- Can senior transfer John Fields be the shot-blocking whiz he was last year at UNC Wilmington?

- How ready is Melvin Goins to be the No. 1 point guard, after backing up Bobby Maze a year ago?

- Can Scotty Hopson increase his 12.2 points-per-game scoring average of 2009-10 to help offset the loss of Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Maze from last year's team?

- Perhaps the biggest question of all: How much, and how effectively, will the Vols press on defense and run on offense?

"I think we'll have rotations that can press," Pearl said. "We've got the press in. This is our third week, and last week was the first time I put the press in. I want to press some, and I think we'll have some units out there that are better than others at it.

"We still want to play fast. We'll try to do things to force tempo."

Even with Kenny Hall (foot), Josh Bone (quadriceps) and Cameron Tatum (bone bruise) unlikely to play due to injury, Tennessee has the depth to maintain a rapid pace.

"The depth is absolutely terrific," Pearl said. "We have 14 really good basketball players, and 10 or 11 are going to play."

Tennessee's ability to press and run may be limited somewhat, however, by the team's overall athleticism and speed.

"It's the longest team with the most traditional size and depth," Pearl conceded, "but it's not the most athletic and it's not the quickest. And it's to be determined if it's the best."

As a Div. II school, Brevard is no threat to beat the Vols. The visitors should help Pearl pinpoint the Vols' strengths and weaknesses, however. That's what makes exhibition games so useful.

"You look for exposure. You look to try to get exposed," Pearl said. "And you look to try to learn from the things. My guess is that Brevard will be smaller than us at every position. Therefor, our quickness will be challenged.

"They'll be hard to guard in man to man because we'll be bigger than them at every position, so how do we move our feet? How do we rotate? Do we take advantage of our size inside? The better the opponent, the more you get exposed."

NOTES: The first 2,500 fans attending tonight's game will receive a free UT schedule poster. Any fan who brings a book to donate to the Knox County Library will be admitted free. Tennessee plays its final exhibition game Monday vs. Indianapolis before opening the regular season Friday, Nov. 12 against visiting Chattanooga.


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