The biggest stage. The brightest lights. It’s New York City and the Vols are here! Our trip to NYC began yesterday with a 7am departure so that Coach Pearl and a few of our players could get to the mandatory NIT media luncheon. We are truly blessed to travel the way we do. When we arrived at our hotel right in the heart of Times Square, our players were given an hour and a half to walk around and grab some lunch on their own before our practice at New York University. For guys like Brian and Tobias, who are from New York, buying a $15 chicken finger basket is something they grew up accustomed too. But for a lot of our guys, this was something they weren’t prepared for. Umm can you say $5 foot long? This assistant whose new baby goes through 10 diapers a day can!

The entire team was excited to finally get to practice. After all, as we have continued to say to one another, this is a business trip. We are here to get better and win two basketball games. A lot of our players weren’t with us the last time we played in the Preseason NIT but our entire staff was, and man do we remember it. As a staff we can’t wait to get out on that legendary floor tomorrow and help this basketball team play better. We understand the importance of getting as many wins as possible prior to our conference season has been elevated. These next two games will give us this opportunity.

The outcome we are all working for started with our preparation on Friday. We have worked really hard at our offensive fundamentals and becoming a better defensive rebounding team. It was almost like going back to the basics we all did the first couple weeks of our high school practices. Box out drills, ball handling drills, defensive shell, two hand passing and catching drills, defensive slide drills, etc. In addition, we have gone over our scouting report each and every day. To beat this very good, future NCAA Tournament team, we are going to need to take care of the ball against their pressure defense and defend their very athletic and talented team. Our game plan defensively will rely heavily on being in the right position at all times so that our length can wreak havoc on their smaller quicker players. It doesn’t hurt to have gotten Mel back to practice over the weekend either. His vocal leadership and defensive tone setting ball pressure will surely help our team.

I asked Coach Pearl yesterday, “So BP, are you feeling better or more scared the more you watch VCU on tape?” His response was exactly right, “It’s not about them. It’s about us. It’s always about us. How do we carry out the principles of our program and the tactics of our game plan? What is our players’ focus? If we worry about what we can control and what we’ve worked on, we’ll be fine.” This is so true. It’s true for tonight, UCLA/Villanova, or any other opponent we play this year. It is about us. I have said it over and over again; I believe we have the players to be a very successful team this year.  However, their commitment to our TEAM, their teammates and the proven successful teachings of their coaching staff will ultimately determine whether we are dancing on the big stage of New York or kicked to the curb to hang out with the individual “hot dog” vendors.


Become a fan of our official team page at www.Facebook.com/BallWithTheVols


About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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