Too many Vols spoil rotation?

With Tennessee reeling from back-to-back upset losses to Oakland (89-82) and Charlotte (49-48), you figured coach Bruce Pearl might come out smoking at his Monday news conference.

Instead, he came out joking.

Taking his accustomed seat at the head of the table, he flashed a smug grin and quipped: "If some of you are disappointed that I don't have my suggestion box out here, I apologize. I've been getting a lot of advice the last couple of days about how to fix what's broke."

Much of that advice concerns the idea that Pearl is giving too many minutes to too many reserves, hurting the Vols' offensive continuity. Critics say the 10-man rotation that was necessary when Tennessee played a blistering pace in years past is counter-productive now that the Big Orange is operating at a less frantic, less taxing tempo.

Pearl has no plans to change, however.

"I'm not necessarily looking to streamline the rotation," he said. "I'm just looking to put the best guys out there and have them play effectively.

"I do get a kick out of people talking about how we substitute a lot. We've substituted a lot for five or six years. When it's working, we didn't get a lot of credit for it. When it doesn't work, we get a lot of banter about it."

Tennessee used 10 players in Friday's 49-48 loss at Charlotte, with each Vol seeing at least 11 minutes of action. Pearl expects to utilize a similar substitution pattern Tuesday night against visiting Southern Cal.

"I believe in our team. I believe in the whole," he said. "If I had five or six McDonald's All-Americans, I'd try to play those kids more. If you look at our stat sheet the two McDonald's All-Americans we have - Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson - lead us in scoring, lead us in minutes, lead us in shots attempted."

Although Tennessee's pace isn't nearly as fast in Year 6 under Pearl as it was in Year 1, the coach still believes that subbing freely helps his teams finish games strongly.

"The good thing is that our guys have been fresher late in games - to be able to finish plays, make free throws and get stops - because they haven't had to be out there for 35 minutes," the coach said. "That's just a philosophy I believe in and a philosophy I will always believe in.

"We don't beat Ohio State last year to go to the Elite Eight going five-on-five, six-on-six. We just don't. So we're not going to change now."

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