Old Milwaukee

Watching tape of the Siena team Tennessee will face at noon today in the Old Spice Classic at Orlando, Bruce Pearl is reminded of another scrappy squad ... one of his own.

"This is a team kind of like my Milwaukee teams – tough, physical, extremely well drilled," the Vol head man said this week. "They've got at least three guys that can drive by us. It's by far our best challenge."

Like the teams Pearl coached at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Siena compensates for a lack of size with an abundance of quickness and hustle. The Saints may not be big enough to run over you but they're fast enough to run by you.

"This Siena team is really good in transition and they're good in secondary (break)," Pearl said. "They get a lot of those opportunities because they force a lot of turnovers. My teams historically have done that because we've typically been quicker and smaller."

Like Pearl's UW-Milwaukee teams, Siena loves nothing more than to grab a long rebound and launch its high-octane fast break.

As Pearl noted: "Against Siena, 'huh shots' lead to run-outs."

After routinely coaching against bigger teams during his stint at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his first three years at Tennessee, Pearl suddenly finds himself in charge of the bigger bodies this season. The Vols' 2008 lineup measures 6-9, 6-7, 6-8, 6-7 and 6-2. The head man says all that size is only an advantage if you manage to exploit it.

"Getting them the ball in positions where they can take advantage of it is going to be the challenge," he said, "because of the quickness Siena presents.

"Siena has good size, too," Pearl added, noting that Alex Franklin "plays some center at 6-5 but they're 6-7 and 6-9 at the forwards. And (Kenny) Hasbrouck, at 6-3 and almost 200 pounds, is a big, strong 2 guard."

There is no greater equalizer for superior size than superior defense. Siena is capable of playing it, as the Saints showed in their 83-62 defeat of heavily favored Vanderbilt in the NCAA Tournament last March.

"This team finished 10th in the country last year in steals," Pearl noted. "They're one of the better fast-breaking/transition teams we'll play. They'll turn us over. They'll make plays to turn us over."

Historically, Pearl's teams also make plays to turn opponents over, thanks to a feisty full-court press. This Vol squad forced just nine turnovers last time out vs. Middle Tennessee, however, and had its press shredded all too often.

"Can you press this Siena team? With the speed and quickness of their guards, it's going to be difficult, especially when it doesn't appear that this (Vol) team is going to be a great pressing team," Pearl said. "We've got a lot to work on.

"This tournament is going to provide us with tremendous exposure and, hopefully, tremendous growth."


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