June 25, 2014
Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall announced the non-conference portion of the Volunteers' 2014-15 schedule Wednesday.
The Big Orange will play a dozen regular-season games leading into Southeastern Conference action in January. The complete SEC portion of the schedule will be released later this summer.
Of Tennessee's 12 pre-conference clashes, seven take place at Thompson-Boling Arena, four will be played at a neutral site and one is a true road game. The opponents include at least five teams who appeared in last season's NCAA Tournament, at least four teams that posted a top-100 year-end RPI in 2014 and three in-state foes.
"This is a very ambitious non-conference schedule, but I think it will prepare us well for the level of competition we'll face once Southeastern Conference play begins," Tyndall said. "Nearly half of the teams we will face were in the NCAA Tournament last year. All of them are extremely well coached programs. I think we've put together a schedule our fans will be excited about, and that's important because we are going to need our fans to be impactful for us this season - both at home and on the road."
As announced earlier this month, Tennessee opens the regular season Nov. 14 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where it meets VCU as part of the inaugural Veterans Classic. Under head coach Shaka Smart, VCU posted a 26-9 (12-4 A-10) record last season and made the program's fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The Rams advanced to the Final Four in 2011 and reached the third round in both 2012 and 2013.
The Volunteers' home-opener is set for Nov. 20 against Texas Southern. Led by head coach Mike Davis, the Tigers won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Tennessee football team plays host to SEC foe Missouri at Neyland Stadium two days after the Texas Southern game at Thompson-Boling Arena, so out-of-town fans can use that long weekend to see two of their favorite UT squads in action.
During the week of Thanksgiving, Tennessee takes part in the eight-team Orlando Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. The Vols will play three games at the event (Nov. 27, 28 and 30), but the bracket has yet to be announced. The tournament field also includes Georgia Tech, Kansas, Marquette, Michigan State, Rhode Island, Rider and Santa Clara.
Tennessee then hosts back-to-back home games, as Kansas State comes to Thompson-Boling Arena Dec. 6 in conjunction with the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and Butler travels to Rocky Top for a Dec. 14 matchup.
K-State posted a 20-13 (8-8 Big 12) record last season and earned its fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth.
Butler made consecutive national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011 and joins Tennessee as two of only 13 programs in the nation to reach the Sweet Sixteen four times in the last eight years.
UT's only true road game of pre-conference play takes place Dec. 17 against NC State in Raleigh, N.C. The Wolfpack beat the Vols last season in Knoxville and then went on to reach the NCAA Tournament and finish the season with 22 wins. Tennessee's returning players are familiar with NC State's PNC Arena, as the Vols played - and won - a pair of NCAA Tournament games at the venue in March.
A four-game homestand in December closes out the non-conference portion of Tennessee's schedule. During a two-week span, the Vols host Tennessee Tech (Dec. 19), Mercer (Dec. 22), Tennessee State (Dec. 27) and ETSU (Dec. 31).
Mercer posted a 27-9 overall record last season. The Bears shared the regular-season Atlantic Sun Conference championship with a 14-4 league record and also won the A-Sun tournament. Their season ended with a third-round NCAA Tournament loss to Tennessee in Raleigh.
The Vols will host a pair of exhibition contests in early November. The University of Pikeville, an NAIA school located in Pikeville, Ky., visits Knoxville Nov. 3. And on Nov. 8, UT welcomes NCAA Division II opponent Lenoir-Rhyne University from Hickory, N.C.
Tipoff times and TV designations for all games have yet to be determined.
Tennessee season tickets go on sale in September.