Pearl wants Vols to come out in force

Tennessee Head Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl wasn't worried about the Vols No. 6th seed as much as he was how the Vol Fan Base will travel to Rhode Island. Pearl stressed the importance of how critical it was to have a large following in the NCAA Tournaments first round. Go "Inside" to see what he had to say about the Vols match up with San Diego State.

The Tennessee men's basketball team watched eagerly alongside coaches, fans and alumni in a packed Ray Mear's Room at Thompson-Boling Arena Sunday evening, when the Volunteers were unveiled as a No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament.

The first-round will pair the Volunteers with the San Diego State Aztecs (25-8), the 2010 Mountain West Conference Tournament champions.

Fortunately, the Big Orange will have a significantly shorter trip than the Aztecs, as the two teams converge at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, R.I. The Aztecs will cover more than 3,000 miles in their journey, while the trip from Knoxville will tally less than 900 miles.

The sometimes outlandish locations of March Madness games can throw a wrench into the travel plans of fan bases, which sometimes serve as the determining factor in difficult neutral-court games.

"I just hope it's (Providence) close enough for our fans to get too," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "This is important, very important. It's part of the development of our program."

"We're glad to be close to home but we just hope our fans come out and support us," senior center Wayne Chism said. "It's still on this side of town so we're very happy to be this close to home."

Pearl referred to road victories under the Tennessee football program and Pat Summitt's Lady Vols squads, which were achieved under the watch of strong road support from the Big Orange faithful.

However for a program in which Pearl himself has helped develop into one of the most successful in the nation, a travelling fan base comes last in the construction process.

"It's part of changing the culture," Pearl said. "That's one of the last things is to get the fan base to travel."

In five years as head coach, Pearl has noted a consistent increase in orange at neutral court locations; a change in color which has served a purpose synonymous with the players that wear it.

"I thought we had really good support in Columbus [2007]," Pearl said. "The Old Spice Classic [2008], when we beat Siena, an NCAA tournament team, Georgetown and then had a good effort against Gonzaga; we had a great crowd. Our fans traveled and it was wonderful and it did make a difference."

Regardless of the fan turnout, it will be the same men suiting up for tip-off come Thursday.

The Aztecs are coming off a 55-45 win over the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in the Mountain West championship game.

Tennessee will be looking to rebound from the most lopsided loss of the Bruce Pearl era, a 74-45 loss in Nashville, Tenn., where Kentucky blue dominated the majority of the 17,000 seats available in Bridgestone Arena.

A return of orange in the stands could provide a refreshing relaxant to a Tennessee team that will be looking eagerly in the crowd for brightly colored reminders of home.

For fans on the cusp of booking travel deals, inspiration can always be found in the animated voice of the Big Orange head coach.

"That's where Dave Gavitt did his deal, that's where the Big East got started, that's where Rick Pitino got a team to the Final Four," Pearl said. "It's a pretty special building for college basketball."

Now it's time to make it a special building for Tennessee basketball.

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