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Tennessee 86 – Ole Miss 70

Video highlights of the Tennessee 86-70 win over Ole Miss Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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Wow3D Final Evening Headlines 8/30/2012

No. 9 South Carolina survives upset bid against Vanderbilt
Final: South Carolina 17 – Vanderbilt 13
Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw left game in second quarter with bruised shoulder, returned in third quarter
Missouri freshman quarterback Maty Mauk arrrested on multiple charges, including leaving the scene of an accident
Ole Miss names Bo Wallace starting quarterback for Saturday against Central Arkansas
Tennessee bans ticket scalping near Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena
Think turnovers matter in the SEC? Log on to to see our breakdown

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Wow 3D Evening Headlines 8/30/2012

End of Third Quarter Score: Vanderbilt 13 – South Carolina 10
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw left game in second quarter with bruised shoulder, returned in third quarter
Missouri freshman quarterback Maty Mauk arrrested on multiple charges, including leaving the scene of an accident
Ole Miss names Bo Wallace starting quarterback for Saturday against Central Arkansas
Tennessee bans ticket scalping near Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena
LSU plans on playing Saturday night in Baton Rouge, despite damage from Hurricane Isaac
Think turnovers matter in the SEC? Log on to to see our breakdown

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Martin’s Discipline Working Off-Court At UT

Cuonzo Martin is a disciplinarian.  Tennessee’s hottest offensive hand will be yanked to the bench if he’s slothful on the defensive end.  Like Norman Dale at Hickory High in “Hoosiers,” Martin put his team through a number of drills in preseason sans basketballs. 

After a slow start, the Volunteers have shown enough improvement in 2012 to upset Florida and UConn at Thompson-Boling Arena.  Picked or 11th in the SEC, Martin’s Vols are currently eighth in the league standings.  While no one in Knoxville is going to be throwing any parties over those types of numbers, but it does appear Martin’s discipline is having a bigger impact away from the court.

According to UT faculty representative Dan Murphy, the basketball team had one of its best academic semesters in “four or five years” last fall.

“I think Cuonzo Martin has really made it clear to the students that you go to class, you do your best.  You’re a student-athlete.  Being a student is part of what he expects from his athletes — and it shows.”

Martin isn’t being paid to raise GPAs, he’s being paid to win games.  But for those who believe discipline — in all areas of life — is key to winning games long-term, Martin’s approach in Knoxville bears watching. 

And looking at the numbers provided by The Knoxville News Sentinel in the article above, Derek Dooley might want to have Martin talk to his football team, too.

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Pearl Continues To Overshadow Martin In Knoxville

It appears the former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl is still The Man in Knoxville.  Part of that is understandable.  His six-year run at UT was the school’s best-ever period in terms of NCAA Tournament appearances and success.  Thompson-Boling Arena went from being a tomb to one of the best gyms in the country.  And the Vols became a national brand, even reaching the top of the polls for a brief stay.

On the other hand, his rule violations brought the NCAA to town and his lie to NCAA investigators brought the program crashing back to earth.  But even after his ouster in March, he remains a popular figure with many Vols fans and a good chunk of the Tennessee media.

How else do you explain the photo at left?

Last night, Pearl took in the final game of Knoxville’s summer Rocky Top league.  When he departed, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he left the high school gym “to applause and cheers of ‘Bruuuuce!’”

The Sentinel’s website features a photo of Pearl — and the “Bruuuuce!” quote — on its front page today.  That’s the image at left.

“Tonight was about me coming out to see my son play and supporting the guys we recruited to Tennessee who have played hard for the Vols,” Pearl said of his appearance.  “These guys are well-seasoned now, and they’re ready to play.”

Nothing wrong with a man watching his son play.  Nothing wrong with a man showing support for players he once recruited and coached, either.

But it still might not sit right with new Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin.  While Martin would likely never admit it, having a popular ex-coach still walking around town — getting cheered — probably won’t make his own life any easier.  Especially if his team struggles in Year One… which is likely due to the roster he inherited.

Pearl built Tennessee basketball to the point that many fans simply don’t care that he also had a big hand in its likely decline.  That’s some loyalty to the coach right there, folks.  So why would he leave an area where he is cheered, where his wife comes from, and where his kids go to school?  (And — as some in the Knoxville media would tell you — “where he would like to coach again someday?”)

If Pearl wants to stay, that’s certainly his right.  But he’s not doing his replacement any favors by doing so.

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UT Wise To Stick With Pearl (But They Should Have Suspended Him For This Season)

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has one member of the national press in his corner.  But not for the coach’s sake, for Tennessee’s.

Gary Parrish of writes today that he has come to the following conclusion: “UT should keep BP.”

“That’s what I decided during Florida’s 81-75 overtime victory against the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena late Tuesday, and I didn’t decided it because I think Pearl has been wronged or railroaded or unfairly labeled.

He cheated.  He got caught.  Then he lied about it and, in my opinion, only came clean when he knew there was no way to cover it up.  He’s everything his detractors say.

But he’s also tremendous at being the head coach of Tennessee’s men’s basketball team, and that’s why Tennessee would be wise to keep him if it’s at all feasible.

Don’t do it to help Pearl.

Do it because it’s best for the long-term future of the program.”

And that’s exactly what Vol athletic director Mike Hamilton plans to do. 

There has been much recent conversation about the fact Pearl is working without a contract.  In fact, the coach has tossed that out to national reporters on several occasions as proof that his status is shaky.  But a new deal is already being offered by Tennessee.  Pearl and his lawyers haven’t signed it because they don’t agree with all the dotted i’s and crossed t’s.  He’s not working without a contract because UT is waiting for the NCAA to hand him a punishment.  He’s working without a contract because he hasn’t chosen to sign what UT has offered him.

No, Hamilton has made it very clear that Pearl is his guy.  And — from a business perspective — that’s a good move.  Tennessee basketball has averaged 25 wins a year under Pearl.  It reached the Elite Eight for the first time ever last season.  Thompson-Boling Arena has added luxury boxes and received a serious facelift.  A new practice facility has been built.  All those improvements can be traced directly to Pearl.

On top of that, Pearl’s lie covered up actions that would have been considered secondary violations had he just come clean.  The cover-up was worse than the crime.  If ever a scandal deserved a “gate” to tie it back to Watergate, this story is it.

So Parrish and Hamilton are right to think that UT is better off recovering from NCAA punishments with Pearl than it would be without him… even if the NCAA hands Pearl a one-year ban.  (Parrish believes that’s likely.  We at MrSEC believe the penalty could be even worse.)

In Parrish’s view, plenty of schools have taken PR hits and survived.  Kentucky hired John Calipari despite his reputation.  Auburn stood by Cam Newton despite rumors and allegations.  UConn is standing by Jim Calhoun despite violations in his program.  Etc, etc, etc.

But Tennessee still could have handled the Pearl situation better.  By announcing loud and clear that Pearl is UT’s man no matter what, the school might be sending a defiant message to the NCAA.  Tennessee — which has had the NCAA look in on its football, baseball and basketball programs in recent months — had better hope that’s not how the NCAA views its stance on Pearl.  Because if angered the governing body could hit the coach with a two-year suspension or even the dreaded show-cause penalty which would effectively blackball Pearl from the NCAA ranks for several years.

Had Hamilton announced in September that Pearl would be suspended for the entire 2010-11 season, he would have killed recruiting for the Volunteers.  But he also might have shown the NCAA that he and the UT administration understand the seriousness of Pearl’s lying.  In doing so he probably would have prevented a more serious penalty from the NCAA.  And Pearl’s suspension would already be halfway served.

Instead, the Vols are struggling in 2010-11 and they still might face an additional Pearl suspension for 2011-12 or longer. 

The Vols are making a sound business move in keeping Pearl.  But had they handled that decision better from the get-go, they might have avoided more serious penalties.

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Donovan Shows Class, Wishes The Best For Pearl

To date, two coaches have come out in support of embattled Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl.  One is Villanova’s Jay Wright, who is not an SEC rival.  The other coach might surprise you.

In the SEC, fans enjoy hating rival coaches, players and fans.  And they really enjoy coaches and players who make no bones about hating one another.  The relationship — and I use that term loosely — between Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer comes to mind.

But the animosity that existed between Tennessee’s and Florida’s old football coaches does not carry over to basketball.  In fact, Billy Donovan has chosen to lend his verbal support to his UT counterpart.

“I’ve got a good relationship with Bruce,” Donovan told The Knoxville News Sentinel.  “I feel bad, in a lot of ways, for the things he’s going through personally.  It’s an unfortunate situation.

“I look at it from a different standpoint.  We all make mistakes.  We all do things we regret.  Nobody’s perfect and I’m not condoning any of his actions because I don’t know what went on.

“But you know what?  He is a person, a human being.  Forget the coaching, forget the sanctions.  Him as a person, I hope he’s able to find some peace in his heart with what’s happened and can move forward in his life.”

Donovan surprised many be showing up and taking part in a Pearl-backed anti-cancer fundraiser in Knoxville last year.

His comments regarding Pearl’s NCAA failings — while the exact opposite of what we would expect to hear from fans — are welcome.  You can be sure that Vol fans will let Donovan have it when he enters Thompson-Boling Arena tonight.  And Gator fans will be hoping Pearl’s career is eventually ruined by an angry NCAA enforcement department.  But the coaches don’t share their backers’ hostility.

From where I sit, that’s a good thing.  It’s good to see one SEC coach support another.  It sets a positive example for fans and hype-it-up media types across the South.

It might not make for flashy headlines and soundbites, but I can tell you I’d much rather cover two coaches showing class (as Donovan and Pearl have) than two coaches showing their asses (as Kiffin and Meyer did).

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Tennessee Prepping For Life Without Pearl

The Tennessee basketball team will host cross-state rival Memphis tomorrow night at Thompson-Boling Arena.  It will be the last time Bruce Pearl sits on the Vols’ bench for 17 days.  UT’s coach will begin his eight-game SEC suspension on Saturday when the Volunteers travel to Arkansas. 

And his departure could not come at a worse time for his team.

In the preseason, Tennessee lost an exhibition game to Division II Indianapolis.  That should have served as a warning sign to all in orange.  Instead, most assumed that the game would simply serve as a wake-up call for a UT team brimming with newcomers.  As the Vols rolled off seven straight victories, won the preseason NIT, beat Villanova and Pittsburgh away from home, and climbed to #1 in the RPI ratings… that assessment appeared to be correct.

But then things changed.

Since December 14th, Tennessee has looked much more like the team that lost to Indianapolis than the team that defeated ‘Nova and Pitt.  The Vols have dropped four of six games including losses to Oakland, Charlotte, Southern Cal and College of Charleston (by 13 points at home).  Their wins in that stretch were a one-pointer over Belmont and a six-pointer over UT-Martin.  UTM had lost 100-40 to Ohio State in its previous outing.

Pearl has admitted that he’s struggled to find a good rotation for his team.  With no consistency on either end of the floor, the UT staff has decided this week that they will begin to hand out playing time based on defensive effort first and foremost.  Sounds like a smart move, but Pearl won’t on the bench often as the plan is implemented.

Congrats (that’s sarcasm) to assistant coach Tony Jones who’ll take over at a time when no one knows for sure which Vols should be on the court together.  Talk about inheriting a mess.

Here’s the schedule UT and Jones will be up against:

Memphis (with Pearl)
At Arkansas
at Georgia
at UConn (with Pearl)
at Ole Miss
at Auburn

Pearl will return full-time to UT’s bench on February 8th at Kentucky.  By the time he returns, the Vols (currently 9-4) might need a miracle run to reach their sixth straight NCAA tourney.

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UT Rolls Past MTSU 86-56

The Vols followed up their NIT Season Tip-Off Championship by notching another win Tuesday, beating MTSU 86-56 at Thompson-Boling Arena. Freshman Tobias Harris led the team in scoring with 21.

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Vols Fend off Belmont 85-76

Tennessee held off Belmont 85-76 in the first round of the Dick’s Sporting Good NIT Season Tip Off at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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