The physical stage is large enough — a pigskin palace turned basketball madhouse of more than 30,000 strong.

Add in a high-pressured hoops contest that propels one team within shouting distance of the ultimate prize and sends another abruptly into the offseason. The buzz is bound to be ecstatic.

"When you're talking Sweet 16," Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin said at Tuesday's press luncheon, "I wouldn't necessarily say the pressure, but the media is so big at that level.

"You're talking four programs that've been in it for a long time, done it at a high level, so it'll be a lot of exposure."

In the days leading up to the 11th-seeded Volunteers' date with second-seeded Michigan on Friday night, countless throngs of reporters, cameramen and everyone in between will bombard Indianapolis's Lucas Oil Stadium — the site of this year's Midwest Regional semifinals.

That added publicity, however, hardly makes things complicated.

"It's a one-game season so to speak every time you have one in front of you, and whatever happens, happens," Martin said. "(If) we don't win it, we don't win it, but let's go out there and play basketball and not feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders just to win a basketball game. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out."

Lately, though, things have jelled quite nicely for the Vols, who've surged through the NCAA tournament at a torrid pace, racking up three double-digit victories in a mere five days.

After nearly 100 UT fans greeted the team at Thompson-Boling Arena in the wee hours of Monday morning following the Vols' 83-63 win over Mercer in Raleigh, N.C., the outpouring of support spilled over into the new week.

"A lot of people asking for pictures and stuff – more than the usual," senior Jordan McRae said. "Just people excited about everything."

"You go into a gas station," forward Jeronne Maymon added, "and the people you've never even talked to — like the clerks and stuff — are saying congratulations.

"It's something new for us."

That's because — as it's been noted on numerous occasions throughout the season — Martin's third year has been dominated by ongoing criticism and continual fan disinterest, leaving one particular Vol somewhat annoyed with the resurfaced affection.

"I'm sort of salty about it, I would say," junior Jarnell Stokes said. "I'm sort of mad about it. People I've been seeing all this time, they would say, 'Hey Jarnell,' and now when they see me, they get a little more excited.

"You have to stay humble throughout the process because you know it can come and go."

And with the unpredictability of March basketball already well established this season, Martin was firm in reiterating the simplicity of UT's approach.

"The only thing that we can control right now is what's presented to us, and we got to do everything in our power to try to win this particular game," Martin said. "I tell them all the time — whether you're high or low — you have to stay consistent. We got to continue to take care of the task at hand."

So whether it's dealing with the bright lights of the Sweet 16, an increase in fan support or the continuation of outside disapproval, the Vols have been thoroughly instructed on how to react.

And those lectures haven't included making any type of major alterations.

"That's the thing about coach Martin," McRae said. "He's got all that into our brains that we don't change what we do no matter what happens. After a loss we do the same things. After a win we do the same things. Other than a few more people on campus talking to us, not anything has changed."