Cautionary tale

Tennessee basketball fans have every right to be excited about the Vols' 9-1 start. After all, there hasn't been much reason for optimism in Big Orange hoops the past few years. Still, that optimism might need to be tempered just a bit.

It was just two years ago that the 2003-04 Vols started 9-1, including a 24-point blowout of Georgia (89-65) in the Southeastern Conference opener. The outlook was bright then, too, but it changed in a hurry.

The 2003-04 Vols came crashing back to Earth in Game 11, suffering a 95-57 humiliation in their SEC road opener at Florida. That game proved to be a preview of things to come, as the Big Orange won just six of its last 19 games, finishing the season with a 15-14 record.

Senior forward Stanley Asumnu was a member of that '03-04 team, so he is acutely aware that a bright outlook can fade in a hurry once SEC play begins and the level of opposition rises.

"It's better competition," he said. "Any given night any team can beat anybody. It'll be tougher games. A lot of games come down to the final minute. Defense and rebounding win championships, and we've got to improve defense and rebounding.

Except for a stunning upset of sixth-ranked Texas, Tennessee's nine wins to date have come primarily at the expense of mid-major programs.

"Not taking anything away from (those teams) but an SEC game is a totally different thing," Asumnu said. "Games like that you have to bring you're A-game."

With SEC play about to begin, the Vols had better bring their A-game every night. Otherwise, the 9-1 start of 2005-06 could be forgotten just as quickly as the 9-1 start of 2003-04 was.


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