Quantity vs. quality

Coaching philosophies will clash when Bruce Pearl sends his 10-man Tennessee rotation against John Calipari's seven-man Kentucky rotation tonight at 9:05 in Rupp Arena.

Basically, it's a quantity-versus-quality matchup.

Three of Pearl's 10 - Skylar McBee, Josh Bone, Steven Pearl - arrived as walk-ons. Three of Calipari's seven - Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb - arrived as McDonald's All-Americans.

Whereas Calipari substitutes sparingly in order to maximize his team's elite talent, Pearl substitutes liberally in order to neutralize his team's lack of elite talent. The Big Orange can't out-talent the gifted Big Blue in a seven-against-seven battle, so the Vols hope to out-last the Cats by turning the game into a 10-against-seven endurance test.

Pearl has won a lot of games by building superior depth, which appears to be the cornerstone of his coaching philosophy.

"If you go some places, seven guys are going to play," the coach said. "If you come here, we're going to play 10 guys."

Pearl is convinced that depth can be the winning edge in a lot of basketball games. That's why he works so hard to build depth on his teams.

"Depth is not about recruiting," the Vol coach said. "There's a lot of guys on a lot of benches that don't play that would play for me because depth is something that needs to be developed. You have to develop your bench."

Clearly, Pearl has worked especially hard to accomplish that this season. He's probably the only coach in major-college basketball who has three walk-ons in his playing rotation.

"As I look out there at our talent, I see Skylar McBee, Josh Bone and Steven Pearl who were all walk-ons ... yet they're out there playing significant minutes," he noted. "They have some great strengths; they have some limitations. We try to take advantage of their strengths and try to hide their limitations."

McBee, Bone and Steven Pearl are not as gifted as the Kentucky players they'll be facing tonight. But their minutes will give Tennessee's starters some rest, and that rest could prove critical at the end of the game and at the end of the season.

"I know when I go to my bench that there could be a drop-off in certain areas," Bruce Pearl said. "But there's a commitment through the season. You don't make the marches in the NCAA Tournament, you don't go to the Elite Eight without depth ... unless you can throw five or six McDonald's All-Americans out there."

GAME NOTES: Tonight's game features the two premier freshman power forwards in America in UK's 6-8, 244-pound Terrence Jones (17.9 points, 8.9 rebounds per game) and UT's 6-8, 228-pound Tobias Harris (14.8 points, 7.7 rebounds).... The other projected starters for Kentucky are 6-10, 275-pound Josh Harrellson (5.9 points, 8.8 rebounds), 6-6, 210-pound DeAndre Liggins (8.4 points), 6-7, 228-pound Darius Miller (10.0 points) and 6-3, 185-pound freshman Brandon Knight (17.5 points, 3.8 assists).... Tennessee has beaten Kentucky more times than any team in college hoops but still trails the all-time series 144-66. The Vols are 16-84 in games played at Lexington.... Kentucky features three of the SEC's top six 3-point shooters - No. 1 Doron Lamb (47.8 percent), No. 2 Darius Miller (46.0) and No. 6 Brandon Knight (41.7).... Bruce Pearl is 3-4 head-to-head against Calipari, dating to the latter's days at Memphis.... Kentucky leads the SEC in 3-point shooting (40.4 percent), scoring margin (plus 14.4 points per game), turnovers (just 11.4 per game) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1 to 1.0). The Cats are second in scoring (77.9 points per game), field-goal percentage (45.9), blocked shots (146) and field-goal defense (38.3 percent).... The unranked Vols bring a 15-8 overall record and a 5-3 SEC mark into tonight's game. The No. 18 Cats are 16-6 and 4-4.... The game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories