"Vanderbilt can put you to sleep," Vol head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Vanderbilt can take time on each possession and grind it out and take the crowd out of the game. We're going to need our crowd to be aware and not fall asleep when Vanderbilt tries to put them to sleep."
Pearl's "If you snooze, we lose" message to fans is no exaggeration. The Commodores put Florida's crowd to sleep last Saturday in Gainesville, establishing a tempo so slow that Gator fans and players alike were yawning. As a result, Vandy went to halftime with a three-point lead. Florida finally woke up at the start of the second half, dominating thereafter en route to an 81-58 romp.
One way Vanderbilt forces a slow pace is by committing very few turnovers – just 12.4 per game on average – thereby limiting its opponent's fast-break opportunities.
"We're going to try to turn Vanderbilt over but they're a good ball-handling team," said Pearl, whose Vols force an SEC-best 19.6 turnovers per game. "Obviously, they're going to prepare very hard to not let it get into too much of a track meet. If we can (force turnovers) that would be a key to our success."
Another way Vanderbilt slows the tempo is by utilizing most of the shot clock before trying to score. The Commodores are even more deliberate in this regard than the South Carolina team Tennessee beat on Saturday.
"This opponent will challenge our patience more than any other," Pearl said. "South Carolina likes to shoot it quick and late. Vanderbilt likes to shoot it late and later."
Will Vandy's deliberate attack put Vol fans to sleep? Only time will tell but Pearl hopes UT backers will be just as vocal when the scoreboard is still as they are when it is flashing non-stop. He says his team needs help to "get us through the lulls versus responding to our spurts."
Approximately 20,000 fans are expected to be on hand for Wednesday night's 7:30 tip-off. The key is this: Will they be roaring or snoring?