The new season

The latest Southeastern Conference standings show Tennessee with a 9-1 record, but at least one Vol says that isn't accurate.

"We've got to put those 10 (pre-conference) games behind us now," sophomore guard JaJuan Smith said. "We're zero-and-zero going into Sunday's game (at South Carolina). We can't let the past take over."

That's probably a good approach. Certainly, the Vols can't afford to be cocky, even though they beat No. 6 Texas en route to their 9-1 record.

"We're real confident," Smith conceded, "but now we've got to put that behind us."

Major Wingate, the Vols' 6-10 junior center, won't have any trouble leaving past successes behind. He's a little apprehensive about the start of conference play.

"I'm kinda nervous because of our defensive percentages and rebounding," he said.

Those are legitimate concerns. Tennessee ranks dead last among the 12 SEC teams in scoring defense (71.6 points per game), field goal defense (45.5 percent) and rebound margin (-3.2).

Still, the Vols have overcome their defensive and rebounding woes effectively enough to win nine of 10 games to date. They did so by shooting exceptionally well, forcing lots of turnovers and executing efficiently at crunch time.

"Overall, I think we'll be pretty good," Wingate said. "As long as we keep it close in the end I know we'll win."

Dane Bradshaw, a 6-4 junior forward, knows the atmosphere will be a little different now that conference play is set to commence.

"The intensity's going to pick up," he said.

The physicality of the game will pick up, too. That makes depth even more important than usual.

"It's huge, with the the way the SEC wears and tears on your body," Bradshaw said. "The schedule just gets tougher and tougher, and you can't always rely on your main guys. You're going to have to get some help somewhere else. If you can get eight, nine or 10 weapons out there, that's really big for the future."

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