Vols + Gators = noise

Some longtime observers thought the decibel level at last season's Tennessee-Florida basketball game might have been the loudest in the history of Thompson-Boling Arena. It could be even louder tonight.

Here's why:

Tennessee fans love beating Florida, whether the sport is football, basketball or rowing.

Tennessee needs a win to complete a 16-0 home schedule.

Tennessee hopes to send senior fan favorite Dane Bradshaw out on a winning note.

Tennessee is looking to avenge a 94-78 spanking Florida inflicted Feb. 3 at Gainesville.

Tennessee can significantly improve its seeding for the upcoming SEC and NCAA tournaments by winning.

So, if you have sensitive ears, you might want to bring some plugs for tonight's 9 o'clock tipoff between the unranked Vols (20-9 overall, 8-6 SEC) and the third-ranked Gators (25-4, 12-2). Or stay home and watch on ESPN ... with the volume muted.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl certainly expects the crowd to be large and loud this evening. He bases this on the response at the Vols' recent SEC home games.

"The atmosphere this season has been unbelievable," Pearl said. "Look at the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games, and the intensity of the Alabama game. It will be even bigger and better Tuesday.... The students have been camped out, trying to get on the front row. It's truly a special basketball time in Tennessee."

The Florida game is so big that Pearl has worked extra hard this week preparing his team and preparing his hyperbole.

"We have to play not just good but great ... not just great but outstanding ... not just outstanding but probably the best game of our lives," he said. "Florida is the defending national champion. They've lost a game or two down the stretch, but their talent level is incredible."

Tennessee isn't exactly chopped liver. The Vols have had an up-and-down season but they're currently on an upswing. After winning nine games in a row between Nov. 27 and Jan. 7, they lost six of their next eight. Since then, however, they have won five of six. Of course, none of those five victims were as talented as the Gators.

"It's going to take a great effort," Pearl said, "but our kids have given that kind of effort, and I will expect it against Florida."

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