Pearl's weakness exposed

It took nearly 2½ seasons but Bruce Pearl's weakness finally has been exposed.

Tennessee's head basketball coach has proved he can win at home (24 consecutive games).

He has proved he can win on the road (13-10).

He has proved he can win in the NCAA Tournament (3 wins, 2 losses).

He has proved he can recruit.

He has proved he can motivate.

He has proved he can excite the fan base.

He has proved he can mold quality people, as well as quality athletes.

So what is his weakness? Geography.

Reminded earlier this week that the Volunteer State has three teams in the national rankings – Memphis (16-0) at No. 2, Tennessee (14-1) at No. 6 and Vanderbilt (16-1) at No. 16 – Pearl said he wasn't surprised.

"I think it's been a basketball state forever," he said, noting that Memphis "goes to the Final Four all the time" ... that basketball has been the Commodores' "flagship team for years" ... and that "what Coach Mears and Coach DeVoe did at Tennessee" elevated the Vols to prominence.

Picking up steam, Pearl went on to add that the seven-time national champ Lady Vols are "like the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys ... people love 'em or they're the evil empire."

Not content to conclude his comments at this point, Pearl launched into a geographical explanation of the Volunteer State's roundball success. That might have been a mistake.

"The other thing is, we border Indiana," Pearl said. "We border Southern Illinois. We border Southern Ohio. We border Kentucky. Those areas have historically been known as unbelievable basketball areas."

Tennessee does, in fact, border Kentucky, its neighbor to the north. The Volunteer State does not border Indiana. It does not border any part of Illinois or any part of Ohio.

Clearly, Pearl's weakness has been exposed. Now we'll have to wait and see if Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings can find a way to exploit it tonight at 7 in Thompson-Boling Arena.

SCOUTING VANDY: The Commodores feature the SEC's top two scorers in 6-6 senior wing Shan Foster (20.6 points per game) and 6-10 freshman A.J. Ogilvy (19.4).... Vandy has made more free throws (324) than its opponents have attempted (315). The Dores have tried an SEC-best 438 foul shots, 64 more than runnerup Tennessee.... Vandy is second among SEC teams in scoring offense (86.0 points per game) but dead last in scoring defense (75.6).... The Commodores are shooting an SEC-leading 43.9 percent from 3. South Carolina (40.0) is a distant second. Tennessee is seventh at 35.4.... Tonight's game will be televised by ESPN.

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