Double duty for UT

Normally, he's all about "taking 'em one game at a time." But this week, with the SEC Tournament at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena looming, Bruce Pearl doesn't have that luxury.

Assuming No. 15 Tennessee (23-7 overall, 11-6 SEC) beats LSU (11-19, 2-14) Thursday at 2:15 Central in Round 1, the Vols will be playing again 24 hours later against Ole Miss (21-9, 9-7). That's why UT's head coach is having to prepare his team for both the Tigers and the Rebels in practice this week.

"In a tournament like this you've got to prepare a little bit different than you would in a normal week," Pearl conceded. "You've got to look at Ole Miss a little bit early in the week. If you (wait to) look at Ole Miss on Thursday night, if you're fortunate enough to beat LSU, it'll be a harder preparation."

Because there will be very little opportunity to prepare for the Rebels between the end of the LSU game and the start of the Ole Miss game, Tennessee has little choice but to prepare for both teams today and tomorrow. Still, Pearl insists his focus is more on Game 1 than Game 2.

"We're going to prepare for both," he said, "but the priority is LSU."

Should the Vols beat LSU on Thursday and Ole Miss on Friday, they'll play again 22 hours later - Saturday at noon - in the semifinals. The likely opponent is second-ranked Kentucky (29-2, 14-2). Should the Vols win Saturday, they'll play Sunday at noon for the tournament title. That would mean facing four grueling tests in less than 96 hours. Obviously, Pearl has to be careful not to wear out his players on the practice floor.

"It affects your practice plan," Pearl said, "because the potential is there to play for a few days, and you've got to prepare for that."

Trying to win four games in four days represents quite a grind - physically and mentally - but Tennessee's players are eager to give it a shot.

"Our kids are excited about playing and not looking forward to the season being over," Pearl said. "They want to keep playing."

If they keep winning, they'll get the opportunity to do just that.

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