Life without Bruce

After giving a peerless performance in Game 14 vs. Memphis, Tennessee must give a Pearl-less performance in Game 15 at Arkansas.

Coming off a 104-84 beat-down of Josh Pastner's Tigers on Wednesday night, the Vols will be minus their head coach when they take on John Pelphrey's Razorbacks Saturday in Fayetteville. Bruce Pearl cannot be inside Bud Walton Arena beginning two hours before the 12:30 CST tipoff and ending one hour after the final horn as part of an eight-game SEC suspension.

Given how inconsistent the Vols were in Games 1 through 14, no one can predict how they'll respond once their leader is absent. Still, the Big Orange coaching staff is trying to create a business-as-usual atmosphere. Pearl admitted as much when ESPN's Jimmy Dykes asked how his Friday night speech to the team will differ from the normal game-eve talk.

"I told him it's going to be like my speech on every Friday night," Pearl replied.

To say the Vols are downplaying the suspension might be an understatement. They seem to be ignoring it. Following the smashing defeat of Memphis, for instance, the staff made no mention of Pearl's penalty and the impending elevation of associate head coach Tony Jones to acting bench coach.

"We didn't say one word about anything in there (locker room)," Pearl said. "No reason to. We're going to continue to do what we do as routinely as we possibly can do it. The only difference is, rather than me working with one of the assistant coaches on the (Arkansas) scout, Tony and I will work with that assistant coach on that scout.

"Tony and I will probably spend a lot of time between now and the Arkansas game, so he's got a real good feel for what I'm seeing and I've got a real good feel for what he's seeing."

Although Pearl's passion for Tennessee basketball is unquestioned, he insists that his visit to Wednesday night's post-game locker room - his last for a while - was no big deal.

"It really wasn't emotional at all," he said.

Understandably, some Big Orange fans are worried that the Vols' performance without their volatile head man will be unemotional, as well. Pearl does not anticipate that to be the case, and he has made his expectations known to his staff and players alike.

"Let's just go about our business," he said. "We're going to be a man down against Arkansas. The guys will step up and the coaches will step up. The game plan will be set and we'll keep it as routine as we possibly can."

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