Basketball Notebook

Sonny Says Tubby Must Improve as Offensive Coach - Pearl Unsure About Coaching Son - Vols Avoided `Bottom Feeders - Where to Rate Tennessee's Talent - Vols Could Get Highest Ever NCAA Seed

Sonny Says Tubby Must Improve as Offensive Coach

Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith indicated the future might not be bright for Kentucky coach Tubby Smith.

Tubby's team has to win at least 18 games to get an NCAA Tournament bid.

``Tubby's won so long with better defensive teams,'' Sonny Smith said. ``Coaches have caught up to him. Now, he has to become a better offensive coach, which he is not.''

Mike DeCourcy, senior college basketball writer for The Sporting News, partly agrees with Sonny's comments. DeCourcy said Tubby has to recruit better offensive players because it's easier to teach someone to play defense that shoot.

Tubby signed his best class in 2004, with Rajon Rondo, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Randolph Morris – three of whom were high school All-Americans. Why the lack of results? DeCourcy said it's because the two previous classes and the one after were poor, leaving the current sophomores to shoulder too much of the responsibility.

Tubby Smith has five years left on an eight-year deal he signed in 2003. He started at $1.5 million and gets a $100,000 raise each year. He's making $1.7 million this year. If he stays for the entire eight years, he gets a $4 million retention bonus.

Some have speculated, though, that Tubby will walk away before his current contract expires.

DeCourcy said his national coach of the year at this time is Tennessee's Bruce Pearl and his SEC Player of the Year is UT's Chris Lofton.

Pearl Unsure About Coaching Son

Steven Pearl, a 6-5 senior wing player at West High School, said he is strongly considering walking on at Tennessee to play for his father.

But Bruce Pearl doesn't sound convinced that he wants to coach his son, who averages 21 points per game.

``I want to be around my son,'' Pearl said, ``but I'm not sure I want to coach my wife's son.''

Vols Avoided `Bottom Feeders'

Tennessee's No. 3 RPI and No. 4 strength of schedule was built in part because Pearl tried to avoid what he called ``bottom feeders'' in the NCAA.

There are 334 Division I NCAA teams. If you consider a team in the bottom 100 a bottom feeder, then the Vols played just one – No. 281 Alabama A&M, which played in the NCAA Tournament last year.

No other team on the schedule ranked worse than 230. Here's the RPI of the non-conference opponents: No. 230 Appalachian State, No. 213 East Tennessee State, No. 206 Eastern Kentucky, No. 179 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 168 Lipscomb, No. 91 South Alabama, No. 84 Murray State, No. 7 Texas and No. 5 Memphis.

The RPI of the SEC opponents thus far: No. 15 LSU, No. 19 Florida, No. 43 Alabama, No. 44 Kentucky, No. 52 South Carolina, No. 58 Vanderbilt, No. 82 Georgia, No. 106 Auburn, No. 113 Mississippi State and No. 121 Ole Miss. Arkansas, Tennessee's opponent Feb. 25, is No. 66

Where to Rate Tennessee's Talent

Even though Tennessee has the best record in the SEC, I haven't changed my mind about the talent level.

After watching each SEC team, I put UT's talent in the middle of the SEC. LSU has the most talent with Florida second and Arkansas third. I give Alabama, Kentucky and Vanderbilt a slight edge in talent with South Carolina a push.

That means I've got UT's talent tied for seventh in the SEC. The Vols actually had better talent last year, with Scooter McFadgon and Brandon Crump.

But there are several distinguishable differences in UT this year and last. The Vols are in better shape, they're playing much smarter and they're better coached. Because of that, they're playing with much greater confidence.

Vols Could Get Highest Ever NCAA Seed

If Tennessee wins the SEC regular-season and SEC Tournament title, the Vols could be a No. 1 seed for the first time in the NCAA Tournament.

If the Vols lose only two more games this season, they are likely to be a No. 2 seed, given their RPI is No. 3 and strength of schedule No. 4 in the nation. If they lose three more but get to the SEC Tournament title game, they are likely to be a No. 3 seed. If they lose four more games, they likely will be a No. 4 seed.

Tennessee has never been higher than a four seed since the NCAA went to seedings in the late 1970s. The Vols were a four seed in 1981, 1999 and 2000. They were a seven seed in 1980, an eight seed in 1979, 1983, 1998 and 2001, a nine seed in 1982 and 2001 and a 10 seed in 1989 – Don DeVoe's last season.

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