This Tennessee team has a decent chance to beat the odds. It brings a 14-2 record, a No. 9 national ranking and a six-game winning streak into tonight's 6 o'clock Central Time tipoff. Conversely, Alabama is 11-6 and unranked under first-year head man Anthony Grant.
Playing on the road can be an adventure, though. The Vols discovered as much when they fell flat in a 77-55 beat-down at the hands of a nondescript Southern Cal team on Dec. 19.
Tennessee seems to have gotten its act together since then. Playing by far its best basketball of the year, the Big Orange has posted six consecutive victories, including a 66-59 road win at Memphis on Dec. 31.
An intriguing sidelight of tonight's game will be the return of Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins, who missed the previous four games due to disciplinary suspensions. Tennessee closed ranks and went 4-0 without them but all four outings were home games. Tonight will be different. The surroundings will be unfamiliar and the crowd will be hostile.
"We got to go on the road and stay together," senior post Wayne Chism said. "Even though all of this stuff is going on on the road, if we stay together we can do a great job on the road."
Alabama has beaten Tennessee in 32 of the past 45 meetings, regardless of site. The Tide won 70-67 last March at Thompson-Boling Arena. Former UT coach Buzz Peterson was especially futile vs. Bama, going 0-6 and losing by an average margin of 15.5 points.
Peterson's successor, Bruce Pearl, stands 3-2 vs. Alabama, including a 1-1 mark at Tuscaloosa. He lost 92-79 in 2006 but won 93-86 in 2008. Chism was a sophomore on that '08 team and remembers the game well.
"It was a close game the whole way, a tough game," he recalled. "We need to go down there and continue to play our ball, and I think we can come out with a great win on their floor."
Torrance leads the team in scoring (15.9 points per game) and assists (5.2 per game). Green is second in scoring (14.9 ppg) and leads in rebounding (7.1 per game). Hillman averages 8.5 points, Knox 6.2 and Brock 6.1.
NOTES: Maze leads the SEC in assist/turnover ratio at 3.2 to 1 ... Tennessee and Bama have one common opponent - Purdue. The Vols lost to the Boilermakers 73-72 on Nov. 23 at the Virgin Islands; the Tide lost 73-65 on Dec. 12 at Tuscaloosa ... Tennessee opponents shot just 34.7 percent from the field during the four games Tatum and Goins missed under suspension. The Vols also were without Brian Williams (who remains suspended) and Tyler Smith (since dismissed) during that stretch ... Tonight's game will be televised by ESPN.
BRUCE PEARL VS. BAMA
2006: Lost 92-79 in Tuscaloosa
2007: Won 69-66 (OT) in Knoxville
2008: Won 93-86 in Tuscaloosa
2009: Lost 70-67 in Knoxville
2009: Won 86-62 in Tampa (SEC tourney)