CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tennessee point guard Melvin Goins understands that he faces a difficult individual matchup Friday afternoon in the Vols' NCAA tournament opener against Michigan.
UT senior point guard Melvin Goins says his small stature — he's generously listed at 5 feet 11 inches — might help him defend Michigan sophomore point guard Darius Morris, the Wolverines' leader in scoring and assists.
But the 5-foot-11 senior might have a bit of an edge on Wolverines sophomore point guard Darius Morris, the team's leader in scoring and assists.
The way Goins sees it, the 6-4 Morris' size advantage actually plays to his strengths as a defender.
"My size, I can use it to sort of get up under the guards and pressure them well and just try to be a nuisance to them and try to cause problems," Goins said. "I think I have (had) success in the past with bigger guards."
Not that Morris, who's averaging 15.2 points and 6.1 assists per game this season, will be all that easy to slow down.
"He's a bigger guard — a bigger point guard — so that's always challenging," Goins said. "He sees the floor well, gets his teammates involved, penetrates well. I think he has, like, 200-plus assists on the year, so he distributes the ball very well.
"I just have to try to keep him out of the lane and make his life difficult, and just try to make it tough for him to distribute the ball like he wants to."
ON THE REBOUND: Michigan coach John Beilein said his team's ability to limit UT's offensive rebounds and points off turnovers likely will decide the second-round game between the two teams.
He said he's most concerned about "how that ball comes off the backboard if they miss shots, because they're so good at offensive rebounds."
"They are tremendous offensive rebounders," Beilein said. "Somebody asked me, 'Does it concern you?' And I said it would concern the Boston Celtics if they had to box these guys out. They really crash the boards.
"Sometimes you can do everything right and the ball's just, with the geometry, (where) you can't get it. That's one big thing."
Tennessee is averaging nearly 14 offensive rebounds per game and has grabbed 4.2 more rebounds per game than its opponents this season.
The Wolverines, meanwhile, are averaging 1.9 fewer rebounds per game than their opponents.
SIDE NOTE: Pearl once again pointed to his team making the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive year as "probably something that I'm the most proud of," even ahead of the Vols' Elite Eight appearance last year.
"I'm really proud of the way these guys have managed to get back to the tournament again for the sixth time … in a row," he said. "That's never happened in Tennessee basketball history, and as you look around the country, that just doesn't happen a lot."
Pearl's statements came during a long-winded response to a question about his conversation with UT men's athletic director Mike Hamilton on Wednesday.
"I know this isn't your question," Pearl said, smiling to the reporter near the end of his answer. "But there are some cameras rolling."
NARROW FOCUS: Asked about the off-court issues surrounding Pearl this week, Beilein said he doesn't think his team is "aware of it at all."
Beilein a former chairman of the NCAA Division I basketball ethics coalition who remains involved with the group, said he's not all that familiar with most of the details of Pearl's situation.
"If you were ever in a basketball environment right now, you would know how little attention we pay to the rest of the basketball environment and what's happening in different programs," Beilein said. "We just don't do it. I know very little about it. Our team knows very little about it. We're coaching our team.
"Just hang with me for one day. I have to force myself to go to CNN sometimes just to follow the tragedy in Japan and different things, but it's very hard to worry about anybody else's issues right now because you're just trying to get better yourself."
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: Tennessee junior guard Scotty Hopson, the team's leading scorer, said the Vols did "get a comfort level with the arena" when they played at Time Warner Cable Arena earlier this season.
But Pearl suggested that his team "won't have much of a comfort level" on offense in returning to the site of its 49-48 loss to Charlotte on Dec. 17.
"I think we shot 30 percent (in that game) or something like that," Pearl said. "We played Charlotte here earlier in the year and defended very well but really struggled offensively."
FEW FLAWS: After praising Michigan's players for doing "what they do well" and having "clearly defined"roles, Pearl said the Wolverines have "some weaknesses that we need to exploit.
"They don't have many, but they have some," he added. "Our ability to exploit those weaknesses will determine whether or not we're going to be successful."
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