Is timing right?

Timing is everything, as the 2005-06 Tennessee basketball team proved conclusively. Bruce Pearl's Vols peaked between January 21and February 22, winning nine of 10 games, including two defeats of eventual national champ Florida.

Then the Vols clearly hit the skids – losing four of the last six games they played. Why did a team that seemed invincible in February become so vulnerable in March?

For one thing, Dane Bradshaw hurt his right (shooting) wrist and was a non-factor on offense down the stretch. For another, UT's lack of depth made the Vols leg-weary in the season's final weeks. Finally, Tennessee's lack of athleticism at some positions was exploited.

With five heralded freshmen and transfer Tony Passley upgrading both the depth and athleticism, the 2006-07 Vols may be able to flourish at the finish – not fade at the finish – in the season ahead.

"In this business you've got to get hot at the right time," junior guard JaJuan Smith notes. "With this team, I think we've got a chance to get hot at the right time."

Smith readily concedes that the Vols were running on fumes by tournament time last March. They lost their last two regular-season home games (73-69 to Arkansas and 80-78 to Kentucky), dropped their SEC Tournament opener (79-71 to South Carolina) and lost their second-round NCAA Tournament test (80-73 to Wichita State).

"Last year we ran out of gas because we didn't have a lot of depth," Smith says. "Coach Pearl has changed that, and he won't let that happen again. We're real deep now, and I think that's going to help us a lot."

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