The Dagger - NCAAB

Thu Dec 03 04:39pm EST

The Hunt: No. 7, Tennessee

The Hunt for the Most Interesting Team in the World is the Dagger's 2009-10 countdown preview series. Check out the overriding principles here.

Last year's record: 21-13 (10-6, SEC)

2009-2010's toughest games: vs. Purdue (L), at USC, at Memphis, vs. Kansas

Primary attraction: Overshadowed by John Calipari's arrival in Lexington, Tennessee might end up being the class of the SEC. 

Three items of undeniable interest:

1. Tyler! -- The return of All-SEC forward Tyler Smith (who had entered the NBA draft but withdrew before the deadline) was a huge boon to the Vols' chances this season. He averaged 17/6 last year, leading the SEC's most potent scoring offense. He's also an adept passer, which keeps defenses honest when they try to hone in on him.

2. Bruce! -- Knoxville might be the only place in the country where somebody could say "I'm going to see Bruce" and have somebody else assume they weren't talking about Springsteen. With Tennessee basketball in a low period, Rocky Top is all about Bruce Pearl and the Vols ... and for good reason. In the 22 years before Pearl came to Tennessee, the Volts made the tournament five times. In Pearl's first four seasons, they've made it four. His loud clothes, gregarious personality, deference to Pat Summit and pictures like this have made him a hero for the orange and white. His teams make more boneheaded plays than any other elite team, but we can overlook that because, well, it's Bruce.

3. Wayne! -- Yesterday I joked about how it seems like Villanova's Scottie Reynolds has been in school forever. But I wasn't really surprised he was back, since his return to school in June was high profile. However, when I turned on the Tennessee-Purdue game during Thanksgiving week and saw a familiarly-headbanded dude with crazy hops and the name "CHISM" on the back of his jersey, I literally had to do a double-take. Wayne Chism is STILL in college? I opened up my computer to go to the Vols roster to see if it wasn't his brother or cousin or some other guy who happened to be named Chism. It wasn't. Still Wayne. I was thrilled, because if there's one guy I love more than Bruce Pearl, it's Wayne Chism. I have no idea why, but I do.

Ernie and Bernard:

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