Vols fear no one, Odom says

After 28 years without an SEC Tournament title, the Tennessee Vols are looking to make history. The South Carolina Gamecocks are looking to make history repeat.

The 2006 Gamecocks lost to the Vols twice during the regular season but upended the Big Orange in Round 2 of the '06 SEC Tournament.

The 2008 Gamecocks, after losing to Tennessee twice during the regular-season, will be trying to upend the Vols today in Round 2 of the '08 SEC Tournament in Atlanta.

Still, Carolina coach Dave Odom says the similarities between the 2006 SEC tourney match-up and the 2008 SEC Tourney match-up are largely superficial.

"We did beat them in the second round," Odom said moments after his Gamecocks defeated LSU 77-73 in first-round play Thursday afternoon. "But everything is different (this time). Their team is much better ... much better. Ours is not.

"We're not as good a team at this time as we were that particular night (in 2006). Remember, that's a team that beat Florida twice during the regular season. It was a team of veterans. It was a team that had actually been together for a couple of years. It was a team that actually had two NBA players, although we didn't know it at the time ... and a third I think will make it, Tre Kelly. So it was a team that was a little bit more together."

While South Carolina is not as good as it was in 2006, Odom believes Tennessee is much better than it was in 2006.

"Tennessee is the overwhelming favorite to win this tournament," the Carolina coach said. "I mean, they have proven over the course of the conference season to be the best team. They played maybe the best schedule in the country. They are expertly coached, and they have good depth.

"They hurt you at every position, and they play confident. Their style is different than any other team ... Nobody plays the style they play."

In addition, the Vols enter Friday's game well-rested. They've had four days to prepare since playing Carolina last Sunday in their home finale. The Cocks, on the other hand, will be playing for the second time in 24 hours.

As Odom noted, "It's a quick turnaround for us."

South Carolina surprised LSU with some new defensive wrinkles, including a zone defense. Since Tennessee scouted the game, those wrinkles won't surprise the Vols.

"We did run a couple things that were different today," Odom conceded. "It won't be a secret tomorrow because Tennessee saw the game today. Unless we go back to the hotel and put something else in, they've seen everything we've done, so it won't be a secret."

South Caroline was not competitive in the two regular-season meetings with Tennessee, losing 80-56 in Columbia and 89-56 in Knoxville. Maybe having a tourney game under their belts will help the Gamecocks as they face the Vols for the third time this year.

"The only advantage about not getting a bye is you get an opportunity to get the opening game jitters out of the way," Odom said. "I think that's more important for teams like us than it is for, say ... Tennessee, for instance. I am certain Tennessee does not fear South Carolina. Respect us? I think they do. But they don't fear us.

"I don't think they fear anybody in this tournament."

Really, Tennessee shouldn't fear anything this weekend. The Vols, 28-3 overall and ranked No. 4 nationally, are assured at least a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament. They will be loose, whereas teams like Kentucky and Arkansas are fighting to play their way into the NCAA Tournament.

"Those teams that are bubble teams, if you will, they're nervous as heck," Odom said. "Tennessee is not nervous. They're not nervous. They're confident, they're relaxed, and they'll run. They would like a circus atmosphere tomorrow, alley-oops, dunks behind the head, their tails fall off, pick them up, throw them on their arms and let's go. That's what they want. They're not nervous.

"You know, their future for next week is secure."

Odom has tremendous respect for the Vols' offensive balance. He says they have the shooting range to do damage from the perimeter and the muscle to do damage on the inside.

"They make you guard them at 3 so they can score at five feet," Odom said. "And somehow we know that we've got to find a way to guard them at both. Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith both can beat us. They scored, what, 28 and 22 last weekend? They got 50 points. We only got 56 ourselves (as a team).

"So you have to guard them at 3. But in truth, it's the second shots, it's the offensive rebounds, it's the tipped dunks, it's the running lay-ups across the breaks that really beat you. We've got a better chance of guarding them inside of five than we do at the 3.

"We've got the Dome; maybe they don't shoot well. Maybe. The best chance we've got is to make them miss. We can't sit back and HOPE they miss. We've got to be aggressive with that."


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