Middle a 'trap game' for No. 13 Vols

KNOXVILLE - Bruce Pearl has grown so accustomed to adversity the past few months that he struggled to say the word "success" Sunday night.

The embattled Tennessee men's basketball coach said he wanted to "see about handling some adversity" heading into tonight's home game against Middle Tennessee State.

"I mean, success," Pearl said. "We're going to see about handling some success."

Perhaps it was an innocent slip, but maybe it just feels different to feel good again.

The Volunteers surged to No. 13 in this week's Associated Press poll after topping previously unbeaten, seventh-ranked Villanova in Friday's NIT Season Tip-Off title game in Madison Square Garden.

Amid an NCAA investigation into Pearl's recruiting tactics, and shortly after the Southeastern Conference banned the head coach from this season's first eight league games, UT swept four games in the NIT and brought home Pearl's first tournament championship for the Vols.