Cuonzo Martin smiling in a press conference is about as rare as a Jarnell Stokes 3-pointer in a game. But one specific question-answer exchange had the third-year Tennessee coach grinning from ear to ear.
After talking in detail about the great job Vandy has done handling its current dilemma of only having seven scholarship players, a reporter asked during Monday's weekly press conference if there was any specific way UT could exploit that advantage when they travel to face the Commodores on Wednesday night in Memorial Gymnasium.
"We'll see," Martin answered, followed up by a demonstrative smile.
Tennessee's rotation is hovering around eight players in SEC play, but the Vols boast a whopping 13 scholarship players on the roster — most of which are thrown into the rotation often.
Vandy lost two starters — including top scorer Kedren Johnson — before beginning the year, followed by the dismissal of then-leading scorer Eric McClellan from the team 12 games into 2013-14.
The bad news piled up, leaving head coach Kevin Stallings with seven active scholarship players to finish out the year.
Having such a huge numbers advantage is welcomed by the Vols, but even Martin sees a silver lining for the Commodores.
"The plus side about having seven guys is you know where you're getting your shots and your minutes," Martin said. "I think where it comes into play is when you take the legs from those guys, when you pressure them and you're moving them to get fatigued late in games.
"But they still have the personnel to be successful. They have proven that."
They have. Despite the disastrous roster turnover, Vandy is 12-8 and 4-4 in the SEC. The 'Dores beat Missouri at home on Jan. 16 and have won three straight heading into Wednesday's rivalry game.
Rod Odom is a big reason why. Vanderbilt's senior forward leads the team with 14.3 points per game and is playing 35.7 minutes on average, posing as a mismatch on nearly any defender with his 6-foot-9 frame.
"He's 6-9," Martin said, "and he can catch and shoot. And he has some physical-ness to him. They put him in positions where if you have a traditional big guy against him, it's tough.
"Watching film, I don't understand how he gets open so much, and hopefully I'm not saying that after we play him. But it's amazing how he's so open with the way he shoots the ball."
Odom will be among five Vanderbilt starters expected to log ridiculous minutes with such a short bench, but there's one key advantage the Commodores will have — familiarity with the quirky Memorial Gym.
Vandy's arena features benches behind each basket, which significantly alters in-game coaching and makes it one of the most unique home-court advantages in college basketball.
Tennessee senior guard Jordan McRae, who will be making his fourth trip to Nashville, was more worried about the Vols' rare road trip than getting to practice on the Memorial Gym floor Tuesday night after arriving in Nashville.
"I mean, it's cool," McRae said. "But just being on the bus for three hours, sitting there, then you get off to practice. It's going to be a longer time to warm up, I guess. I'm getting old."
Tonight's tipoff is at 8 p.m. on ESPN3.