LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bruce Pearl didn't spend long celebrating Friday's win over Georgetown.
"Look at the size of those guys," Pearl said as he chatted courtside and stared into Gonzaga's huddle just before tip-off of the second semifinal here at the Old Spice Classic. So yeah, the Tennessee coach was already looking ahead, planning for Sunday's championship game. But the 12th-ranked Vols' 90-78 victory over No. 21 Georgetown deserves more attention than Pearl was willing to give it because it was a huge non-league win that came despite UT getting just 12 minutes from Wayne Chism, who is the team's second-leading scorer and top rebounder.
Credit depth as the reason.
And what the nation is learning this weekend is that Pearl has assembled a deep and long roster capable of getting key baskets and rebounds from a variety of places. Tyler Smith looks like an All-American, Bobby Maze and Renaldo Woolridge are way better than most thought, Cameron Tatum was impressive against Georgetown, Scotty Hopson is an NBA prospect and J.P. Prince and Chism are veterans of an SEC championship team. Add it up, and you can see why UT has gone from the favorite to the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC again, and if the Vols can walk away with the Old Spice Classic trophy on Sunday they'll establish themselves as a legitimate top 10 team that won't miss Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith nearly as much as some expected.
"Our (starting five is) good, but our 10 are what makes us better," Pearl said. "We go to the bench and we don't fall off."