"I'm excited about the turnout potential for Wednesday," he said this week. "I think it's great that we can celebrate Tennessee basketball a little bit with an amazing crowd for an SEC opener. I don't know if we deserve it but I sure will appreciate it.
"But it's not going to defend Georgia and it's not going to go up against that defense that turns people over 18 times per game."
Still, Pearl called the blossoming interest in his program "a wonderful, wonderful step in the direction we want to take."
Although he's eagerly anticipating a big home crowd on Wednesday night, the coach seemed almost as pleased that two hundred or so fans followed the Vols to Columbia last weekend.
"We had a couple hundred people at our game in South Carolina, and it made a difference for us," he said. "We've got to get witnesses on the road and get people to travel. It makes a statement to the league that Tennessee basketball is moving up."
Of course, drawing 20,000 fans for a weeknight home game makes a statement, too.