Hoop Vols getting respect

Inheriting a program coming off a 14-17 season, Bruce Pearl played the "no respect" card in 2005-06. Minus three starters from that season – including a four-year starter at point guard – he played the "no respect" card again in 2006-07.

This year, with eight of the top nine players back from a team that went 24-11 and came within a blocked shot of advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, Tennessee is getting plenty of respect … and its head coach is singing a new tune.

"Well, you're going to look at different rosters and you're going to see rosters with depth or experience or talent," he said on a Monday morning SEC teleconference. "For example, Florida last year was clearly a team that had all those things."

The 2007-08 Vols may not be as blessed in those three areas as the 2006-07 Gators (who won the NCAA title) but Pearl's team is pretty loaded in its own right. The head man conceded as much.

"I think if you look at our roster it's as deep and it's as talented and it's as experienced as its been in the last several years," he said. "So certainly, I think that we're going to be picked by a number of people to be competitive."

Actually, most folks are picking the Vols to be cosiderably more than "competitive" this season. Most say the Vols are odds-on favorites to win the Southeastern Conference championship. Moreover, several prognosticators are projecting the Big Orange as a top-10 team.

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