Although recent history bodes well for Tennessee heading into its final road test of the season at Auburn on Wednesday, the Volunteers aren't trotting into this one lightly despite winning six straight against the Tigers.
Head coach Cuonzo Martin made that much clear in his Monday press conference regarding the Vols' mindset in facing a Tigers team that currently features two of the top six scorers in the SEC — Chris Denson and KT Harrell.
"Not at all, our guys already understand and they know those guys can score the ball," Martin said of the possibility that UT could overlook Auburn. "You are going into someone else's environment to try and win a game. Not for our guys. We understand what we need to do in order for us to be successful.
"There's no margin for error."
The Vols (18-11, 9-7 SEC) could secure their first three-game win streak since conference play began with a victory at Auburn Arena — a stadium UT is 2-0 at since its opening in 2010.
But Auburn (13-14, 5-11), a bottom-feeder of SEC hoops in recent seasons, has near victories over Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss in conference play this season. The Tigers haven't gotten out of the cellar completely, but the improvement is showing.
The team has also won two of its last three contests at home, and Wednesday will be senior night.
"You are also talking about senior night," Martin said, "and you are talking about a road game. The records don't mean anything when you're talking about road games."
While UT has struggled on the road this season, it looked better than ever on Saturday at home against Vanderbilt. In the 76-38 win, the Vols rode an even scoring sum as every Vol who played more than one minute scored five or more points.
The Vols spread it around, notching 16 team assists and inspiring UT sophomore guard Armani Moore — who had eight points off the bench — to laud the team's chemistry.
"I don't think our team is hard to figure out," Moore said Saturday. "It's getting our chemistry going. Today, we were helping each other out, whether it's on the defensive end or the offensive end, an extra pass or ball swing back around to you."
When the Tigers visited Knoxville earlier this season, the victory was far from easy for UT. It was a two-point game in the second half as Auburn stuck around before the Vols pulled away late in a 78-67 win.
However, losing at this point in the season and going 1-1 on the year against Auburn would be a considerable shot to UT's NCAA Tournament resume. With a current RPI of 48, the bubble-riding Vols could ill afford another loss before the SEC Tournament.
Martin has said on many occasions he doesn't believe there are any must-win games in the regular season, but senior point guard Antonio Barton wasn't shy in his proclamation of this week's importance after his 21-point game against Vandy Saturday.
"All of our games are important from here on out," Barton said. "The last four games we have to take it personal to the SEC tournament.
"We have to win out."
Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m., and the game will be televised on SEC TV and broadcasted in Knoxville on MyVLT.