Hoop Vols face wicked week

There's an old cliche' that applies to this week's Tennessee basketball schedule ... ''Out of the frying pan and into the fire.''

After visiting 19th-ranked Georgia tonight, the Big Orange hosts No. 9 Louisville on Saturday. That's a tall order for the youthful Volunteers.

''This is a really challenging week for our ballclub -- playing two teams that are ranked,'' Vol head man Buzz Peterson said. ''This is probably the biggest week of the season, by far.''

Perhaps it's the biggest week of Peterson's career.

''This has got to be the toughest week I've ever faced,'' he said. ''You're right smack-dab in the middle (of the season). I don't ever recall having to face a 1 and 8 RPI in the same week.''

The reference was to the fact Georgia's schedule is ranked No. 1 nationally in the Ratings Power Index and Louisville's is ranked No. 8 nationally.

You wonder: Could a week this taxing take so much out of the Vols that they limp into February?

''They know it's a long season,'' Peterson said. ''It's a marathon. It's one week at a time.''

Tennessee has a 9-4 overall record and a 2-2 SEC mark but Peterson knows the Vols must step it up a notch if they are to compete with the level of opposition they'll be facing this week.

''We feel pretty good about ourselves but, as a coach, I'm not real happy the last couple of games with the way we played,'' he said. ''I didn't think we played real smart basketball, especially the first half against Florida and the whole Vanderbilt game. But we were very pleased to get the win against Vanderbilt.''

Although Tennessee is a decided underdog in each of this week's games, Peterson figures these challenges should provide a measuring stick for his team.

''This is a big week for our ballclub -- to see where we stand,'' he said. ''If we could get two wins out of this week, it'd be a huge boost, especially for our confidence.''

And if the Vols come out of the week with two losses?

''It's our job as a coaching staff, if things don't go our way to make sure we keep our heads together and get ready for South Carolina (Jan. 29),'' Peterson said.

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