Queen City blues

The basketball gods clearly have a sick sense of humor regarding the Tennessee Vols.

The Big Orange had to play its regular-season finale at Thompson-Boling Arena, where it lost eight games in 2010-11.

Then the Vols had to play the SEC Tournament at The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where Tennessee's all-time postseason record is 6-11.

Now the basketball gods have decreed that the Vols must play their NCAA Tournament opener at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Tennessee is 0-2 in this venue, having suffered two of its most inglorious losses of the Bruce Pearl era - a 79-60 drubbing at the hands of Louisville in the 2008 NCAA Sweet 16 and a 49-48 shocker to a Charlotte team with a losing record last Dec. 17.

Actually, the whole Queen City has been inhospitable to Tennessee through the years. The Vols are 2-3 in NCAA Tournament action at Charlotte. Ray Mears' 1975-76 team, led by All-Americans Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King, suffered a stunning 81-75 upset loss to VMI at Charlotte Coliseum in 1976. Jerry Green's 1998-99 Vols, seeded No. 4 in their region, suffered an 81-51 beat-down at the hands of ninth-seeded Southwest Missouri State there in '99. And, as previously noted, Pearl's second-seeded 2007-08 team was trounced by third-seeded Louisville at Time Warner in '08.

Big Orange fans may be reluctant to follow the team to Charlotte, given the paltry return on their investment in past years. Then again, hope springs eternal ...

"It's pretty close to here," senior point guard Melvin Goins said, "so hopefully we'll get a lot of fans, a lot of support, and we'll see what happens."

When asked what he recalls about Tennessee's 49-48 loss at Time Warner Cable Arena earlier this season, Goins' face went blank.

"I don't remember too much about that," he said. "I don't remember it, really."

Asked if he has blocked out that painful memory, Goins shrugged, laughed and replied: "I just can't remember it."

Certainly, Tennessee's shooting has been forgettable at Time Warner Cable Arena. Even with gunners Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith on hand, the Vols shot a pathetic 33.9 percent from the field and 25 percent (5 of 20) from 3 during the loss to Louisville in 2008. The Big Orange's marksmanship was even worse earlier this season, shooting 34.9 percent from the field and a frigid 11.8 percent (2 of 17) from beyond the arc.

"I think we shot the worst percentages ever in that building," said senior center Brian Williams, who played in both games. "But things change and, hopefully, the rims will get looser and we'll get some shots there before we even play. Hopefully, we'll do good."

Based on historical precedent, that may be wishful thinking.

Ever the optimistic, coach Bruce Pearl noted that Tennessee limited Charlotte to 30.2-percent shooting - lowest by a Vol foe all season - on its last visit to Time Warner.

"We've gone over there and, certainly, not played great," Pearl conceded. "If we can go over there and defend Michigan the way we defended Charlotte, we have a chance. But we have not shot the ball well in that building two straight times."


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