Don't blame burnout

With the Tennessee Basketball Vols struggling to play up to their preseason billing, a lot of possible explanations are being tossed about, including burnout due to their recent grind.

Head coach Bruce Pearl isn't buying that option at all. Sure, the Vols have worked hard in practice. Sure, they got behind in their schoolwork after missing five days of classes to play three games in the Virgin Islands. Sure, they were stressed out by final exams shortly after returning to Knoxville. Sure, they crossed three time zones to play at Southern Cal last Saturday. Sure, they'll return from a three-day Christmas break to begin preparing for a three-game meat-grinder consisting of Memphis (10-2), Charlotte (9-2) and No. 1 Kansas (11-0).

Still, when asked following Wednesday night's sloppy 99-78 defeat of North Carolina A&T if the Vols might be burned out, Pearl emphatically dismissed that possibility.

"This is a profession that doesn't lend itself to much time for the holidays," he said moments after watching his 16th-ranked Vols improve to 9-2. "We're playing through the holidays.

"I've let the kids go for three days (today, Christmas Day and Saturday). I want them to understand the blessings they have, knowing that sometimes the folks at home have made a lot of sacrifices for them to be here. I want them to go home and make sure everybody there has a great holiday."

After conceding that "Three days is not a lot of time" for a holiday break, the coach added: "I want them to flip the switch right now and start thinking about family. We've talked about what's on the other side (Memphis, Charlotte, Kansas). I've tried to get them to be excited about what we've got coming up when we get back and I've told them we're actually going to train harder than we trained before."

Yes, he said the Vols are going to train HARDER than they did before the holiday break when they reconvene Dec. 27 for a "voluntary workout." One reason is to improve the 3-point shooting. It has been horrendous in the Vols' last three games - 4 for 20 vs. Wyoming, 2 for 22 vs. Southern Cal and 5 for 26 vs. A&T. That's a combined 11 for 68 ... 16.2 percent.

"If confidence is an issue - in shooting, for example - there's no better way to build confidence than to work harder," Pearl said. "If you get in that gym and shoot until you can't raise your arm, you'll come out the next day and you'll be more confident you're going to make that shot.

"That's the way I want to train. I do not think we've overtrained."

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