High score at high noon?

Because the stakes and the tension are so high, NCAA Tournament games tend to be a lower-scoring affairs. That probably won't be the case when Tennessee and Oklahoma State meet today, however.

"I think we'll be able to score," said coach Bruce Pearl, whose Vols face the Cowboys this afternoon at 12:25 EDT in Round 1 of the East Regional at Dayton, Ohio.

Odds are, Oklahoma State will be able to score, too. The Cowboys are one of the most explosive offensive teams in college hoops.

"Oklahoma State is ranked fifth in scoring (81.1 points per game) in the country," Pearl noted. "They make the fifth-most 3s (9.5 per game) in the country. They're in the top 20 in 3-point percentage (38.4). They've got a higher RPI and a higher strength of schedule than any 8 seed and most 7 seeds.

"It will be a tough one."

It will be a fast one, too. Oklahoma State loves to run. And, after slowing the pace earlier this season, the Vols have picked up the tempo the past few weeks ... when they're playing well, anyway.

In their five most recent victories the Vols averaged 83.2 points per game – scoring 81 vs. Mississippi State, 79 vs. Florida, 86 vs. South Carolina, 86 vs. Alabama and 94 vs. Auburn. In their three most recent losses, however, they averaged just 62 points per game – falling 77-58 at Kentucky, 70-67 to Bama and 64-61 to Mississippi State.

Given the recent success UT has had when points were plentiful, the fact Oklahoma State prefers a fast pace suits the Vols just fine.

"This matchup will be very uptempo," Pearl said. "Both teams like to run. Both teams play better going fast. It will be a real exciting game to watch."

Especially exciting – and nerve-wracking – for Tennessee will be the task of trying to contain James Anderson. The silky-smooth 6-5 195-pound guard averages 18.6 points per game and shoots 41 percent from 3.

"James Anderson will be a real tough matchup" Pearl said. "He's a great player ... probably as good a player as we've played against all season long, and we've played against some great players."

Although eighth-seeded Oklahoma State (22-11) is a very capable opponent for ninth-seeded Tennessee (21-12), Pearl would rather be facing the Cowboys than a big team like Gonzaga, which beat Tennessee twice during the regular season.

"Traditionally, a bigger, stronger, more physical, slower, ball-controlling matchup might be tougher," the Vol coach said. "I think both teams (UT and OSU) could make each other play better. Both teams could play well, given the matchup. I think they (Cowboys) like their matchup. I think they would also struggle against a bigger, slower, ball-controlling team.

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