As a result, the Vols' rebounding has made marked improvement in recent weeks. Since losing the backboards 36-27 at Kentucky on Jan. 22, Tennessee has outrebounded Georgia (40-37), Alabama (45-36), Mississippi State (42-32), Florida (39-31), LSU (39-38), Arkansas (38-36) and Georgia (45-41) in succession. The Vols will try to make it eight straight tonight, when they host Auburn at 7:30 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"We're bigger than we were the previous two years, especially with Wayne Chism playing some power forward," head coach Bruce Pearl explained. "It hasn't received a lot of attention but Wayne plays two positions, so he's on the floor much of the time with Brian Williams or Duke Crews."
"With J.P. Prince playing some at the three spot, we have more traditional height," Pearl noted. "I think that has helped us do a better job rebounding."
Although Crews' return has been a tremendous boost for the Vols, it also has created a minor problem. He's taken away minutes previously reserved for Ryan Childress. Now that Childress is back from a bout with the flu, Pearl faces a dilemma:
Does he take away minutes from Duke Crews?
Does he take away minutes from Brian Williams?
Does he let Childress squirm on the bench?
Pearl concedes that his player rotation is working out "pretty well" lately but that "The difficult part is deciding whether to play Brian Williams or Ryan Childress. That's been a real tough call."
It's going to be even tougher now that Childress is healthy again.