If the Big Orange falls tonight, its stint at No. 1 will be roughly 36 hours.
The Vols (25-2 overall, 11-1 SEC) can't officially surrender the top spot until the new set of polls comes out Monday, March 3. If they lose tonight at No. 18 Vanderbilt (23-4, 8-4), however, they no longer will be considered No. 1 ... just as the Memphis Tigers no longer were considered No. 1 as they trudged off the floor at FedEx Forum following last Saturday night's 66-62 loss to UT.
Oddly enough, a Tennessee hoops program that needed 99 years to achieve a No. 1 national ranking may surrender it a day and a half later. It's too bad the Vols had to play Tuesday, instead of Wednesday, this week. That way, they'd at least be assured of holding the top spot for two full days.
Another advantage of playing on Wednesday – instead of tonight – would be having an extra day to recharge their batteries after that emotionally draining Saturday night showdown. Even Bruce Pearl admits that his team will be hard pressed to get physically and emotionally ready in time for Vandy.
"It is a short turn-around time," the Vol coach said. "We got back in town around 2:30 (Sunday morning) and got a few hours sleep. If the kids were like me, they were pretty keyed up."
Pearl said his players had "a lot of academic commitments" to address on Sunday. Noting that the Vols were "exhausted" when they assembled Sunday afternoon, the coach ordered some stretching exercises but "nothing physical." After watching film of Vanderbilt and attending class Monday morning, the Vols left for Nashville Monday afternoon.
Whether Tennessee's players have had enough time to come down off the Memphis high and refocus on Vanderbilt remains to be seen. Even Pearl seems a little uncertain.
"I'm hoping by Tuesday night we'll be ready to go," he said.
If not, they won't be No. 1 by Wednesday morning.
FREE THROWS: Vol sophomore Wayne Chism outplayed heralded Commodore freshman A.J. Ogilvy as UT won the previous meeting 80-60 Jan. 17 in Knoxville. Chism finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 4 blocks, Ogilvy with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block.... Vandy sank just 3 of 21 tries (14.3 percent) from 3-point range last time, with All-American Shan Foster going 1 for 11 from beyond the arc.... Tennessee's backcourt tandem of Chris Lofton (4 of 11) and JaJuan Smith (3 of 11) combined to sink just 7 of 22 shots in the earlier meeting.... The Commodores shot a season-low 36.8 percent from the field last time.