'Overwhelming,' Pearl says

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl hasn't forgotten – not for one second – who will be the No. 1 team in college basketball when the national polls come out later today. There are too many people reminding him.

Ever since Pearl's second-ranked Vols upset top-ranked Memphis 66-62 Saturday night at FedEx Forum, seemingly everyone associated with the Vol program has been contacting the head coach to offer congratulations.

"The response has been overwhelming here," Pearl said on today's SEC teleconference, noting that he has gotten "hundreds" of text messages and emails from fans, friends, family members, etc.

"It's been wonderful," he said, adding that he has spoken with ex-Vol standouts Allan Houston, Ernie Grunfeld, Bernard King, Dyron Nix, Reggie Johnson and Mike Jackson "in the last couple of days."

Ascending to NCAA top spot is a big deal at Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA, where No. 1 rankings are somewhat commonplace. Tennessee is ascending to No. 1 for the first time in program history, which makes this a huge deal for the Vol Nation.

As Pearl put it: "The game Saturday will have people saying 'Where were you when Tennessee beat Memphis to become No. 1?'"

The answer: Most of them were glued to a television set. With courtside tickets going for a reported $5,000 per, few UT fans were able to afford to see the game in person. Even so, those who watched on TV will be participating in a celebration that could last for several days.

Pearl's Vols, conversely, do not have the luxury of celebrating their unprecedented achievement for an extended period of time. They must get ready to face their two most heated SEC rivals this week – Vanderbilt (Tuesday in Nashville) and Kentucky (Saturday in Knoxville).

Pearl noted that that euphoria of being No. 1 will "have some staying power" for Tennessee's fans but not for Tennessee's players.

"For us it had very little staying power," he said, "because we had to get ready to play a Vanderbilt team that is 17-0 at home. We've turned the page."

Although a No. 1 ranking is unprecedented for UT men's basketball, Pearl is not inclined to gloat. Tennessee has produced numerous elite teams in other sports through the years – football, women's basketball, track, swimming and softball, for instance.

"The fact men's basketball was able to get to this point brings us in line with the other sports," Pearl said. "This is where the softball team is, where track and field is.

"Tennessee is one of the finest athletic programs in the country, and this (basketball ranking) adds to that."


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