Where's Goliath?

After two seasons spent playing David to opposing Goliaths, Tennessee's basketball team gets a new perspective today at 2:45 against Long Beach State in NCAA South Region Tournament action at Columbus, Ohio.

Instead of David vs. Goliath, this will be David vs. another David. For once, the Vols won't be the shorter team. They won't be the taller team, either. Tennessee is taller than the 49ers at two positions, shorter at two positions and the same at one position. That's a wash, folks.

Check it out:

- Tennessee's starting center is 6-9, 245-pound Wayne Chism. The 49ers will counter with 6-6, 222-pound Dominique Ricks. Advantage: UT.

- Tennessee's starting power forward is 6-4, 205-pound Dane Bradshaw. The 49ers will counter with 6-6, 215-pound Sterling Byrd. Advantage: Long Beach.

- Tennessee's starting small forward is 6-2, 196-pound JaJuan Smith. The 49ers will counter with 6-2, 230-pound Aaron Nixon. Advantage: None (unless you want to count Nixon's weight advantage).

- Tennessee's starting off guard is 6-2, 200-pound Chris Lofton. The 49ers will counter with 6-4, 195-pound Kejuan Johnson. Advantage: Long Beach.

- Tennessee's starting point guard is 6-2,185-pound Ramar Smith. The 49ers will counter with 5-10, 180-pound Kevin Houston. Advantage: Tennessee.

For those keeping score at home, UT's two inside players average out to 6-6½ and 225 pounds. Long Beach's two inside players average out to 6-6 and 218 pounds. Tennessee's three perimeter players average out to 6-2 and 193 pounds. Long Beach's trio averages out to 6-1 and 201 pounds.

Since the Vols have been beating bigger teams for two years, facing a foe of similar size suggests Tennessee has an advantage today. Head coach Bruce Pearl won't say the match-up is favorable but he admits it isn't as unfavorable as most.

"We are the smallest team in the SEC. We are the smallest high-major (program) in the country," the coach says. "From that standpoint, this isn't as difficult a match-up for us as for some because our bigs are mobile and our guards are small."

It's worth noting that Long Beach is slightly taller than Tennessee when each team goes to its sixth man. Mark Dawson, 6-9 and 220 pounds, fills that role for the 49ers. Duke Crews, 6-7 and 233, fills that role for the Vols.

"Dawson plays about half the game, and he's 6-9," says Pearl, who is clearly reluctant to play the Goliath role.

In a last-gap attempt to ensure that no one portrays his team as Goliath, Pearl points out that Long Beach State is heavier than the Vols at virtually every starting spot.

"Sometimes it's height and sometimes it isn't," he notes. "For instance, Nixon is 6-2 and 230. He's going to be bigger than anybody we put on him. And the young man Ricks inside is a lot like Duke, size-wise. And Johnson will be bigger than any guard we put on him."

Bottom line: The undersized Vols are still playing the part of David. But at least they won't be facing a Goliath this afternoon in Columbus.


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