After starting 7-0, the now 10-6 (0-2 SEC) Tennessee men's basketball team is not quite ready to the losses affect them.
"I don't think we're discouraged at all," coach Bruce Pearl, who is going into Game 3 of his eight-game SEC suspension on Saturday, said.
"The morale is still up," said senior center John Fields. "It's still two games ... but it's an optimistic 0-2. I think we can pull through and get this win on Saturday and get back on track."
Saturday brings Vanderbilt (12-3, 1-1 SEC), and it also brings ESPN's College GameDay for their first stop of the season.
The Commodores are coming off a 73-66 win over No. 24 Georgia at Memorial Gym in Nashville, bouncing back from an SEC-opening loss to South Carolina.
Pearl's Vols have struggled against teams that play physical basketball, taking advantage of the undersized but extremely physical Fields and center Brian Williams.
"Every team presents different challenges," said Pearl. "Vanderbilt has a real strong post-up game, obviously you got to know where (sophomore guard John) Jenkins is at all times."
Vanderbilt boasts one of the best young guards in the SEC in Tennessee-native Jenkins, who is averaging more than 18 points per game going into Saturday's contest. Combined with fellow guard Jeffery Taylor, and post man Festus Ezeli, he creates a challenge for the Vols.
"Taylor is one of the best athletes in the country," Pearl said. "So guarding them, and keeping them out of the lane (is important)."
In the Vols' two matchups against Vanderbilt last season, Pearl remembered more than just that the Big Orange had swept the series.
"Last year, they shot like twice as many free throws as us, in both games," Pearl said. "(We can't send) them to the foul line a gazillion, bajillion times. We can't foul them as often, and we got to do a better job of getting fouled ourselves."
Pearl addressed the lack of production from the bench by designating an entire day of "twos on twos" practice on Wednesday. The Vols have suffered from a drop off when predominantly bench players have been on the court, something that was less evident earlier in the season but played a major role in Tuesday night's loss against Florida.
The key for Tennessee Saturday will be the production of their McDonald's All-American duo: junior guard Scotty Hopson and freshman forward Tobias Harris.
Harris has two double-doubles in Tennessee's last two victories, including a monster night against rival Memphis, where he finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Although Hopson has fought the inconsistency bug all season, he has improved his scoring in the last four games, scoring more than 20 in two of the four contests and at least 15 points in all four.
Vanderbilt is a team that likes to run, a team akin to Pearl's first UT squads in '07 and '08 without as many alley-oops. Not turning the ball over is critical against a team like Vanderbilt who looks to score in transition. Tennessee has made that mistake too often during the last nine games, leading to a record of just 3-6.
In its two SEC losses, Tennessee has averaged 15 turnovers per game, three more than it is getting in return.
That's something Vandy will look to take advantage of.
The Vols will look to take advantage of a fired-up crowd, fueled by the appearance of the ESPN show.
"It's really exciting to be blessed with that opportunity to be on College GameDay," said Fields. "(During) my years at the mid-majors, I would actually watch that, and I was like, 'Dang, I wish they could be at my school.'
"It's going to be exciting for the guys, and it's going to be an exciting day for Tennessee basketball."
As for Pearl, it's business as usual.
"This is not the Vanderbilt team your fathers may have remembered," Pearl said.
Tennessee plays Vanderbilt Saturday at noon in Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.