KNOXVILLE -- Sometime this afternoon, Tennessee basketball point guard Trae Golden will pack a suitcase for his first trip to Hawaii.
"I say I'll pack Tennessee sweat suits and some swim trunks," the smiling sophomore said Tuesday.
Golden and the rest of the Volunteers can't check into island mode just yet, though. UT plays its final tune-up for next week's stacked Maui Invitational tournament when Louisiana-Monroe visits Thompson-Boling Arena tonight.
"As a team we like to look at things one game at a time, so of course we know we're going to Hawaii," Golden said, "but tomorrow night we're making sure we get the job done."
The Vols fly Thursday morning to Hawaii, where beautiful beaches, sunny weather and a chance to show off a new coach, a new team and a new program await. It's probably easy to overlook a winless Sun Belt Conference team that won just seven games last season when all that is waiting and the next opponent is sixth-ranked Duke.
The Vols could face 10th-ranked Memphis or 17th-ranked Michigan the next day, and 12th-ranked Kansas is on the bracket's other side.
"For our guys, it's the opponent that doesn't have big-name players or is not a big-name program, so to speak," first-year coach Cuonzo Martin said of ULM. "Those are the ones you have to really be ready for. Now it's getting them up to play and understanding you can get beat by this team."
A win tonight could bring more confidence to a team that played well in a 29-point victory against UNC Greensboro in the season opener. Golden scored 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting with six rebounds, nine assists and five 3-pointers, a performance that earned him the season's first Southeastern Conference player of the week accolades.
The 6-foot-1 Georgia native made just six 3s all of his freshman season, when he made less than 30 percent of his shots.
"I have a lot confidence in [my shot]," he said. "I think that last year I put myself in situations that maybe weren't good shots for me playing the role that I was playing in. I never really lost confidence in my shot.
"I didn't feel like I played my game last year, and Coach Martin has really helped me in staying aggressive, staying confident and making sure I put my teammates in position to score as well as myself."
SEC rival Vanderbilt's upset loss to Cleveland State likely caught UT's attention, and Martin had finished watching Kent State win at West Virginia on Tuesday morning before he met with the media.
"Every game is important to me because you can't take it for granted," he said. "The most important game for us is tomorrow. We have to do everything in our power to win that game."
Then the Vols can start thinking about what to do after unpacking their suitcases.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...