Pearl avoids Memphis questions, wants to focus on Auburn - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Pearl avoids Memphis questions, wants to focus on Auburn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A match up between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country?       Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl doesn't want to talk about it.

The state of Tennessee topped The Associated Press poll on Monday with Memphis in the top spot and Tennessee jumping from fourth to No. 2, its highest ranking in history.

If that's not enough, the Tigers (25-0, 11-0 Conference USA) and the Volunteers (23-2, 10-1 Southeastern Conference) meet Saturday in Memphis in the first 1-2 meeting since No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 1 Wisconsin 49-48 on Feb. 25, 2007.

But Pearl would rather discuss Wednesday's SEC match up with Auburn.

"We're trying to do something that hasn't been done in 41 years and that's outright win an SEC championship," he said. "What Memphis has done to build this streak is take it one game at a time. We're going to have to do the same thing."

Memphis visits Tulane on Wednesday.

The state of Tennessee also boasts one other ranked team in No. 20 Vanderbilt.

Pearl danced around questions about Memphis during his weekly teleconference and luncheon, saying Auburn (13-10, 3-7) has just as much chance to upset Tennessee as did LSU and Georgia, the conference's two worst teams who recently lost to the Vols by a combined five points.

Memphis also survived a scare last week in a 79-78 win over UAB on Saturday. The Tigers erased a seven-point deficit over the final two minutes.

Pearl has made winning the SEC title an emphasis for his team and said he thinks his players have been receptive to that goal.

He said he was struck by how much his players talked about the importance of beating Alabama on the road after losing 16 of the previous 17 games while visiting the Crimson Tide.

"Forty-one years is more than most of our lifetimes," he said. "I saw what it meant to them when we went to Alabama. I think it does matter to them a lot, and it requires us to understand that each time we get there we get closer to something that is so very, very special."

Pearl still acknowledges that beating the top-ranked team in the nation can be special too, especially when it comes time for the NCAA tournament brackets to be announced.

"We talk about seedings because seeding has a lot to do with your ability to advance in the NCAA tournament. That's what it's all about. Obviously the higher the seed, the better your chance is of advancing," he said.

Tennessee's highest seeding came in 2006 when the Vols earned a No. 2 seed in Pearl's first year as Tennessee coach. Last season the Viols earned a No. 5 seed and advanced to the regional semifinals, farther than they've ever gone in the tournament.

But NCAA tournament talk isn't piquing Pearl's interest either.

"I don't think you can compare any of that stuff to 41 years of SEC basketball," he said. "It just doesn't compare, and I don't think it compares with our guys, so we will do everything we can to get ready for Auburn."

 

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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