Streaks in jeopardy

Bruce Pearl has won at least 10 conference games in each of his first nine seasons as an NCAA Div. I head coach. He has posted eight 20-win seasons in a row.

If Tennessee's head man is to continue those streaks in 2010-11, however, he'd better get on the ball.

Do the math:

Currently 12-7 overall and 2-2 in league play, the Vols must prevail in eight of their 12 remaining SEC games in order to get to 10 conference wins and 20 overall wins.

Here's a look at those 12 games:

LSU: The Tigers are coming off a 78-51 home-floor loss to an Ole Miss team that came in winless in SEC play. LSU (10-9 overall, 2-2 SEC) is a team Tennessee should beat handily Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

AT OLE MISS: The Rebels snapped an 0-4 SEC start by routing LSU 78-51 in Baton Rouge. At 13-7 overall and 1-4 in conference play, Ole Miss is not very good but Andy Kennedy teams historically give Tennessee trouble. Saturday afternoon's game at Oxford is a crucial one for the Vols.

AT AUBURN: The Tigers, simply put, are the worst team in the SEC. They're coming off a 68-58 home-floor loss to Alabama that dropped their record to 7-12 overall and 0-5 SEC. If the Vols can't prevail Feb. 3 at Auburn they're in big trouble.

ALABAMA: After a slow start the Tide improved to 12-7 overall and 4-1 in SEC play with a 68-58 road win Saturday at Auburn. Bama is emerging as the class of a weak Western Division and projects to give Tennessee a good test Feb. 5 in Knoxville.

AT KENTUCKY: This will be Bruce Pearl's SEC debut on the Vol bench but it may not matter. Tennessee has lost its last four games at Lexington by an average of 13.3 points, and this year's 12th-ranked Cats (15-4, 3-2) are typically talented. They're coming off a 67-58 win at South Carolina and getting better each week.

AT FLORIDA: Pearl's second SEC game won't be any easier than his first. The Gators (15-4 overall, 4-1 SEC) hammered Arkansas 75-43 on Saturday and already beat the Big Orange in Knoxville. Tennessee will be a decided underdog Feb. 12 at Gainesville.

SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks slipped to 12-6 and 3-2 Saturday by suffering a 67-58 home loss to Kentucky. Bruce Pearl is 10-2 against the Gamecocks, including 4-0 against Darrin Horn. He should be 5-0 after the Vols host Carolina Feb. 16.

GEORGIA: The Vols stole one last Tuesday in Athens, so payback could be forthcoming when the talented Dawgs visit Knoxville on Feb. 19. Mark Fox's team is 14-4, 3-2 after hammering Mississippi State 86-64 Saturday.

AT VANDERBILT: Tennessee had to rally from a 17-point deficit to nip the Commodores eight days ago in Knoxville. Vandy (14-4, 2-2) is coming off an 89-70 upset of No. 22 St. Mary's on Saturday and playing well. Pearl has lost on three of his last four trips to Nashville, including a 90-71 beatdown last February, so this season's Feb. 22 visit appears daunting.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs slipped to 10-8 and 2-2 Saturday following an 86-64 humiliation at the hands of Georgia. Tennessee should win handily when MSU visits Feb. 26.

AT SOUTH CAROLINA: As previously noted, SC is 12-6 and 3-2 after Saturday's home-floor loss to Kentucky. Pearl is 4-1 at Columbia, so the Vols should have a reasonable shot at winning there on March 3.

KENTUCKY: As noted earlier, the Big Blue (15-4, 3-2) is ranked No. 12 nationally and coming off a 67-58 win at South Carolina. Pearl is just 4-7 vs. Kentucky but tends to do well going head-to-head with John Calipari. The Vols could have a lot at stake when they host the Cats in the regular-season finale on March 6.

How will the Big Orange finish? Here's one man's best guess:

Tennessee beats LSU on Wednesday, wins at Ole Miss on Saturday, wins at Auburn Feb. 3, beats Alabama Feb. 5, loses at Kentucky Feb. 8, loses at Florida Feb. 12, beats South Carolina Feb. 16, beats Georgia Feb. 19, loses at Vanderbilt Feb. 22, beats Mississippi State Feb. 26, wins at South Carolina March 3, loses to Kentucky March 6.

Should those projections click, Tennessee finishes regular-season play 10-6 in SEC action and 20-11 overall, keeping both Pearl streaks intact.


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