Crews and Chism ... together?

Bruce Pearl said repeatedly he had no plans to play Wayne Chism and Duke Crews simultaneously. So, when Tennessee's basketball coach paired the two freshmen near the end of Game 8 with Murray State, it seemed to be a big deal.

Pearl insists it wasn't. In fact, after fielding several post-game questions on the subject, the coach shook his head and chided the media: "You guys are all up into that, aren't you?"

Pearl surely wishes the issue would go away but it probably won't. Ever since the Vols' lack of size was exploited in a 101-87 Game 6 loss to North Carolina, fans and media alike have wondered aloud why the 6-9 Chism and the 6-8 Crews couldn't be utilized together.

Pearl says there's a simple answer: Putting backup center Chism at power forward would put team captain Dane Bradshaw on the bench.

"To play them together, Bradshaw and (Ryan) Childress both have to be out of the game," the Vol coach said. "I think Bradshaw has shown he deserves to be out there, and I think Ryan is much improved from a year ago."

Still, Pearl concedes that Chism would be a great fit at the 4 (power forward) spot. That's where he played during the 2 minutes and 15 seconds he and Crews were used simultaneously vs. Murray State.

"Even when Wayne's at the 5, he does a lot of things on the perimeter well," Pearl noted. "Wayne definitely could play the 4. It's probably his natural position."

Crews isn't sure why being paired with Chism is getting so much attention, but he admits to enjoying their rare opportunities to play together.

"I guess it's a bigger thing because we form a bigger presence out there," he said. "I like playing with Wayne. It doesn't happen often, so when it does happen I kind of get excited."

Because of his superior versatility, experience and leadership, the 6-4 Bradshaw almost certainly will remain in the starting lineup all season. When Tennessee faces towering foes such as Oklahoma State (Dec. 18 in Nashville), however, the undersized Vols might need a boost in heft that only Crews and Chism can provide.

"That's a possibility," Crews said. "Like Coach says, if we continue to play well, then we allow ourselves to get more minutes. And the only way he can give us both more minutes with us splitting time right now is to put us at different positions."

Bradshaw is not at all jealous of the attention Crews and Chism are getting. He realizes the two freshmen bring considerable size, physicality and athleticism to the Vol front line. He seems especially impressed with Chism.

"Wayne Chism has some things you can't really teach, rebound-wise," Bradshaw said. "He has a knack for the ball and knows how to use his body. You can teach rebounding principles all you want but there are some things he does that you really can't teach."

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