Great expectations

Tennessee's basketball players opened the 2005-06 season hoping to win. Three months into the season, they are EXPECTING to win.

What prompted the change?

Was it last Tuesday's big win at Kentucky? No. It happened before that.

Was it the Jan. 21 upset of No. 2 Florida? No. It happened before that.

Was it the spectacular come-from-behind victory at South Carolina on Jan. 8? No. It happened before that.

"If we made that transition, I think we made it a long time ago," head coach Bruce Pearl said.

The Vol coach says his players "knew we were going to be extremely challenged to win" early on, but still felt optimistic about their chances prior to each tip-off.

"I do think we have gone into games expecting that we COULD win," he said. "When we made the transition to expecting that we WOULD win … I don't really know. That's a good question for the players."

Pearl said teams must go into each game thinking they can win. After a brief pause, he added: "It's difficult when you're losing. It's a lot easier when you're winning."

When you're 18-3, for instance.

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