Outrageous output

The 121 points Tennessee produced in its NCAA Tournament opener against Long Beach State is truly extraordinary when you consider that was more points than BOTH TEAMS scored in seven other first-round games.

Butler (57) and Old Dominion (46) combined for 103. Virginia Tech (54) and Illinois (52) combined for 106. Michigan State (61) and Marquette (49) combined for 110. UCLA (70) and Weber State (42) combined for 112. Southern Illinois (61) and Holy Cross (51) combined for 112. Oregon (58) and Miami of Ohio (56) combined for 114. Texas A&M (68) and Penn (52) combined for 120.

Making Tennessee's output even more remarkable is the fact that NCAA Tournament games generally feature two dramatic trends – slower tempos and lower scorers. Teams that ran the ball up the floor during the regular season walk it up the floor in March. Teams that scored in the upper 70s during the regular season suddenly score in the low 60s in March.

Why does that happen?

"The reason why it does is there's so much at stake," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said recently. "People tend to be a little conservative when it's do-or-die, all or nothing. That's why that happens."

After a brief pause, the Vol coach continued:

"Also, the effort goes up and the game is so physical. Usually, the defense is stepped up at tourney time and the physical play is stepped up at tourney time."

Tennessee exploited a small and uninspired Long Beach defense in Friday's 121-86 first-round victory. The Vols will be facing a much tougher defense in Sunday's second-round test against Virginia. The Cavaliers limited Albany to 37.9 percent (22 of 58) from the field and 30.8 percent (8 of 26) from 3-point range in their 84-57 first-round romp.

Obviously, Tennessee will try to establish a full-throttle tempo in Sunday's showdown. Just as obviously, Virginia will try to establish a more deliberate tempo. That's fine with Pearl. He believes the Vols can win when they score 100 points and they can win when they score 60 points.

"That's the one reason I think it's important to have a system that allows you to win when the tempo's up or when it's down," he said. "We've demonstrated we can do that."

Ramar Smith, the freshman point guard who puts the "fast" in Tennessee's fast break, says the Vols can adapt to a slow tempo if that's what they are forced to play.

"Of course," he said. "We're ready for everything. That's the key to the tournament – getting ready for anything that might come our way."


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