What Bruce Pearl Said About the Tennessee Volunteers Ahead of Matchup

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl is impressed with this year's Tennessee Volunteers team.

SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship
SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship / Andy Lyons/GettyImages
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The Tennessee Volunteers will face off against the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday night as the Vols look to make a statement and earn their first 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament in program history. Bruce Pearl and his Tigers have a different idea for the midweek matchup. The Tigers are looking to play spoiler while growing their own tournament resume. 

The former Vol coach has always been outspoken and unafraid to be genuine, regardless of who is watching or listening. I still remember Bruce shirtless in the student section of a 2007 Lady Vols basketball game. He's still the same guy and coach that he was in the mid-2000s while he was here on Rocky Top.

Since Pearl was hired at Auburn, he’s had competitive teams year in and year out, often competing for conference championships and seeding in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols and Tigers are in the same spot again in 2024, and Pearl has shown Rick Barnes’ Vols some praise ahead of their matchup. 

"I've been saying for a while that Tennessee is the best team in the SEC."

Bruce Pearl

Whether he’s 100% genuine in his comment or trying to instill an underdog mindset before his Tigers step foot in Thompson Boling Arena — he’s right. The Vols have proven to be the best team in the SEC to this point in the season. 

Tennessee has beaten Alabama and Kentucky, two of the main competitors for the SEC Championship, and has the opportunity to deal the same fate to Auburn. If the Vols can get the win Wednesday night, they could separate themselves from the rest of the competition in the SEC with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. 

Pearl also had positive things to say about Dalton Knecht and Barnes, complimenting Barnes on a great career, being one of the best coaches in the country, and recognizing Knecht's breakout year. The Vols' leading scorer has shown he is a threat to the best teams in the conference, and Pearl doesn't think that will change on Wednesday night when his Tigers take on the Vols.

I put Pearl in the same boat as Lane Kiffin. Former Tennessee coaches are loved by some and hated by others. They're both great coaches and know how to use everything they say strategically ahead of a game. Barnes knows how good Pearl's Auburn squad can be any given year. Regardless of how good Tennessee is, they have to show up and play their best game to beat the Tigers.