Given all of the above, how can they take seriously an LSU team that has a 9-12 overall record, an 0-7 SEC mark and a 205 RPI? A glance at the latest league statistics makes the Tigers even tougher to respect.
Consider their rankings among the 12 conference teams:
12th in scoring (63.5 points per game)
12th in field-goal percentage (41.7)
12th in 3-point percentage (28.4)
12th in 3-pointers made (4.19 per game)
12th in steals (5.57 per game)
11th in assists (11.52 per game)
10th in 3-point defense (35.5 percent)
10th in turnover margin (-2.9 per game)
10th in assist/turnover ratio (0.89 to 1)
9th in field-goal defense (43.1 percent)
Despite these paltry numbers, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl insists the Tigers pose a threat that the Vols will take quite seriously tonight at 8 Central (9 Eastern) in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
"LSU played a very, very difficult non-conference schedule," the Vol coach said. "With a lot of new pieces to the puzzle, they weren't able to get the confidence clubs need to get. They were replacing the best team in our league; last year they won the SEC."
Most of last year's Tiger team that went 13-3 in SEC play is gone but a couple of quality players are back.
"Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer are great players," Pearl said. "We're very familiar with them. Storm Warren is one of the most improved players in the league. They've got some good personnel. Obviously, it's been a challenge for them in the SEC but they were 9-1 at home in the non-conference schedule, so we know how difficult it will be to go down there."
Mitchell, a 6-7, 245-pound brute, averages 17.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Warren, a 6-7, 230-pound sophomore, chips in 12.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. They're the key reasons LSU ranks No. 4 among SEC teams in rebound margin at plus-3 per game.
GAME NOTES: Tonight's game will be televised by ESPN2.... Tennessee's Wayne Chism is averaging a double-double (13.2 points, 10.7 rebounds) in SEC play..... Vol teammate J.P. Prince is hitting 76.2 percent from the field (16 of 21) over the past three games.... Tennessee has prevailed on five of its last seven visits to Baton Rouge and stands 22-24 all-time in road games vs. LSU.... The Vols won the last meeting at Maravich Assembly Center 47-45 in 2008, posting their fewest points in a win, their fewest points in an SEC game and their lowest field-goal percentage (31.7) in a win of the Bruce Pearl era.