While the Tennessee men's basketball team will be focused on winning all four games on its ten-day tour of Italy, which they leave for on Sunday, coming out victorious is very important but it is not the only thing on the coaches and players minds.
"You always want to win games, but you want to see guys get better," said second-year head coach Cuonzo Martin. "I think with some of the exhibition games, you want to win games, but you also want to see guys getting better, you want to see different lineups. I doubt if we'll start the same lineup every game."
In their exhibition games in Italy, they will face off against club and professional Italian teams. The Vols will be competing under FIBA rules, which is similar to the rules that the United States national teams are currently abiding by in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Against these teams, the Vols will have to adapt in ways to their opposition's style of play. In the Italian style of play, the big men have a tendency to play on the perimeter to space the offense out and they focus on dribble penetrating. The overseas trip will be the first time for many of the Vols, but not the first for Martin, who, while at Purdue as a player and assistant coach, played overseas in Italy and other parts of Europe.
"The competition is pretty good," said Martin. "I'm not sure we won every game so it was great competition from that standpoint. There were some games where I think we might have won by 40 or 50 (points), but there were other games it was tough for us."
With the Vols planning on using a great deal of different lineups in the exhibition games and Martin not wanting to use anyone more than 20 minutes a game, it will make room for some first time Vols to see consistent minutes such as incoming freshman Derek Reese and junior college transfer D'Montre Edwards. For all the younger players, it will be important that the older players set the tone and display their leadership on and off the court while they are overseas.
"That's probably the biggest thing for us in our program," said Martin. "Our older guys have got to get better off the court leading young guys. Right now, I would say Jeronne Maymon is our leader without a doubt. He's probably the guy."
It will also be important for the team to make progress on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in the four exhibition games.
"I think the biggest key with the offensive progress and our team pushing forward, even into the season, we've got to do a better job taking care of the basketball. We have to many turnovers as a team," Martin said. "The other thing is you have to be able to make perimeter shots consistently. That's just getting in the gym, real simple. Those are things that aren't very complicated, just a matter of doing them and doing them at a high level."
On the other side of the ball, intensity will be a must.
"We're getting to put a lot of stuff in before practices in October and November," said junior point guard Trae Golden.
"The new guys, they get a chance to see how we play defense and how intense everything is."
Despite one of the main goals for scheduling the tour of Italy being to improve and win, the Vols will be able to sight see in their free time, as a tourist will help show the team around.
"When we're off the court, we try to sight-see and do good things and be as a team and have some fun," said Martin. "But when you play the game, you try to put forth your best effort."
A professor of a Renaissance class the team took for class credit this summer will also accompany the team.