'There is no margin for error'

Tennessee's unpredictable 2006-07 basketball season has featured more ups and downs than the elevator at your favorite hotel. With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, here's a brief recap:

Tennessee played as erratically as a freshman-dominated squad is expected to in dropping back-to-back November games to Butler and North Carolina in the NIT Tipoff Tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Tennessee played its way into the top 25 by going 9-0 between Nov. 27 and Jan. 7 – numbering Memphis, Oklahoma State and Texas among its victims.

Tennessee played its way out of the top 25 and onto the NCAA Tournament "bubble" by losing six of eight games between Jan. 10 and Feb. 3.

Tennessee played its way into the NCAA Tournament field – or so it appeared – by sweeping LSU, Vanderbilt and Kentucky between Feb. 6 and Feb. 13.

Tennessee played its way back onto the NCAA "bubble" by suffering a 17-point loss to a woeful South Carolina team last Saturday in Columbia.

Where does all of this leave the Vols? Well, it leaves them 18-9 overall, 6-6 in SEC play and desperately needing to beat Alabama Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena to fortify their NCAA resume'.

"There is no margin for error," head coach Bruce Pearl said.

The Vol boss won't say this is a must-win game because he's tired of being redundant. Ever since that disastrous six-losses-in-eight-games stretch, EVERY game Tennessee played has been a must-win proposition.

"I think you could've said that about LSU," Pearl said. "You could've said that about Vanderbilt. You could've said that about Kentucky. You could've said this (South Carolina) was the biggest road game.

"Yep, this (Bama game) is the biggest one coming up, but they've all been that way. That is why getting to the NCAA Tournament is so special. It is a significant accomplishment. How many games have we had our backs up against the wall and responded?


Perhaps the Vols will respond again Wednesday night against the Tide. If not, another trip to Madison Square Garden may be on the agenda.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories