There are more questions than answers going into this season for the Vols' basketball season. While issues like "Can Jarnell Stokes continue to develop as a legit post threat?" and "Can Trae Golden be a pass-first point guard?" grab headlines, one of the biggest debates among the team over the off-season was a question of face fuzz. Simply put, who has the best facial hair?
Sitting with his back against the wall in a crowd of reporters during the Vols' media day, junior guard Trae Golden has a quick answer to the 2012 Beard Debate.
"My facial hair has a Twitter, @TraeGoldenbeard," he said with a smile. "Until somebody else get's that, come on ... It's not even a question. I mean why else would anybody be interviewing me?"
Despite Golden's confidence, his assertion is obviously in question as three other teammates have a claim to the crown of follicle superiority: senior forwards Kenny Hall and Jeronne Maymon and senior guard Skylar McBee.
"(Of) course I'm going to think I got the best connects all around," Hall said with complete sincerity. "I got the best goatee, easily ... I'm a seasoned vet of the beard game."
Hall is also quick to point out the deficiencies in his teammates' looks.
"Skylar already had the mustache, but he's new to the beard game. He doesn't know how to groom it," he said. " ... He looks like a peeping Tom. That's the kind of beard you find outside somebody's window in the bushes.
"As for Trae, his is spotty. And Jeronne, his looks like a jungle. It's like that episode of 'Family Guy,' where a bird was living in Peter Griffin's beard. I think there's a bird's nest in there. In Italy, when we were on a bus together, I swear I heard chirping coming from it."
McBee, however, readily defends his own look.
"My thing to Kenny would be, how does he know what a peeping Tom's beard looks like? And how can he generalize the looks of all peeping Toms? I don't know any, so I don't feel comfortable trying to do that one."
For McBee, his facial hair has been making headlines on Rocky Top for over a year now. Last year it was the mustache, but now the sharpshooter has added a goatee to the equation.
"It's a goatee, but it would be better if I could connect it all the way," McBee said with a smirk as he points out the two hairless areas of his upper chin. "I guess it's because of my gene pool. But I've been working on it for over three months ... This is what I've worked the hardest on over the off-season. My beard and my shot ... It's magical."
When it comes to facial hair, the work McBee puts in is no laughing matter.
"Every morning I put some shampoo in it, and sometimes give it a nice condition, usually it's a dose of 'Pert Plus.' It's a go-to," he said. "Then I dry it off, give it a comb through, pat it down, a little fluff up and I'm out the door. I also use 'Irish Spring' on the mustache. 'Pert Plus' down here and 'Irish Spring' up top, the two combine to make one really nice smell."
This growth in facial hair hasn't been all fun and games for these players, however, as their endeavors have come at a price.
"It took a long time. My girlfriend and my mom kept on telling me to cut it," Golden said. "It was so much negativity. But I just pushed through."
Golden wasn't the only one to share this sentiment, as other players also had problems due to their facial hair. One such example of this is McBee, who turned lemons into lemonade with his problem.
"There's some foods I couldn't do," he said. "Occasionally some stuff falls in it. But now, I just save it for later...It gives me a snack."
Opinion around the team was split between McBee and Golden, as Hall's "veteran" looks and Maymon's face "jungle" fell to the wayside.
On Team McBee are head coach Cuonzo Martin and senior forward Rob Murphy.
"He makes me laugh," Martin said. "I like looking at it and I love his confidence in wearing it ... I have to give him that."
This praise was echoed by Murphy.
"It's great," Murphy said. "It gives him character and it's now a part of who he is. His could be the best or the worst, depending on how you look at it. But I'm going to say best."
Sophomore guard Brandon Lopez isn't as quick to concede the title to McBee.
"It's tough, but I'm going to have to go with Trae," Lopez said. "McBee's is tough to go against, but in the end Trae's is the best."
While there seems to be no clear winner in the Beard Debate as of yet, one hairstyle superlative was won without contest.
"Coach Martin has the best bald head ever," Hall said. "It's always shiny. I don't know his secret ... He has the best bald head since Michael Jordan and R-Kelly back in his day."
As for the question of facial hair, the battle will probably continue on into the season, as only time and the consequences of No-Shave November will tell.