Sept. 6, 2011
With the recent release of the Tennessee basketball schedule, numerous storylines stand out as noteworthy. Paramount among those plotlines is the excitement associated with the dawning of the Cuonzo Martin era on Rocky Top. The 18th head coach in the program's 102-year history, Martin make his Big Orange debut with a relatively inexperienced roster that features eight new faces.
Opening Night - UNC Greensboro, Nov. 11
The Martin era officially tips off Nov. 11 when UNC Greensboro visits Thompson-Boling Arena. The crowd for UT's home-opener over the past five years averages 20,011, and the Vols have won 18 straight home-openers dating to the 1992-93 season. In the only previous meeting between the Vols and Spartans, Tennessee posted a 92-60 triumph on Dec. 22, 1998, in Knoxville.
Maui - Nov. 21-23
Already boasting a reputation as the premier holiday tournament in college basketball, the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational ramps it up another notch by putting together arguably its most challenging field ever in 2011. Tennessee joins perennial host school Chaminade, along with Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan and UCLA.
The Volunteers previously competed in the Maui Invitational in 2004, finishing fourth at the event after defeating Stanford and falling to North Carolina and Texas.
Martin has coaching experience at the Maui Invitational, as Purdue joined the field in 2006. The Boilermakers, with Martin on the bench just months before being promoted to associate head coach, fell to Georgia Tech before logging wins over Oklahoma and DePaul to turn in a fifth-place finish. It was during that year's tournament that Martin's son, Chase, celebrated his fifth birthday. Now, in 2011, Chase Martin will celebrate his 10th birthday in Maui as well.
Tennessee faces Duke on the opening day of the championship round. The clash with the Blue Devils serves as a tiebreaker of sorts for both programs, as the all-time series is deadlocked at 7-7, dating to the first meeting 100 years ago (Duke defeated the Vols 48-25 in Durham on Feb. 20, 1911). The programs have not met since UT posted a 90-69 win at the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans, La., on Dec. 29, 1980.
Memphis or Michigan awaits the Vols on the second day of action in Maui. The Tigers are a well-known opponent, as the programs meet annually. And Michigan ended Tennessee's season this past March with a second-round NCAA Tournament win in Charlotte, N.C.
During his collegiate playing days as a point guard at Wisconsin, current UT assistant coach Tracy Webster was a starter on the 1991-92 Badgers squad that convincingly defeated Michigan and the heralded "Fab Five" 96-78 in Madison, Wis., on Feb. 26, 1992. Webster's 13 assists in that 18-point victory tied the Wisconsin single-game school record (has since been tied but not broken).
at Oakland - Nov. 28
Tennessee fans have bitter memories of the Grizzlies, as Oakland came to Knoxville last season and rode talented center Keith Benson to an 89-82 upset victory. Benson has since moved on to the NBA--selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of June's draft--but the Vols now owe the Grizzlies a return game in the Great Lake State. It's been 18 years since Tennessee last played a game in Michigan; the Vols' most recent trip there was a 79-68 loss at 17th-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., on Dec. 20, 1994.
Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin has a history with Oakland assistant Saddi Washington, as the two played together professionally in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). After his collegiate career at Western Michigan, Washington was selected by the Grand Rapids Hoops with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 CBA Draft. Martin was one of his teammates in Grand Rapids.
Pittsburgh - Dec. 3 (Big East/SEC Challenge)
Tennessee shocked third-ranked Pitt at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., last season. It was the Panthers' first non-conference loss in their home city in nearly six years. The Vols' only other previous appearance in the event previously known as the SEC/Big East Invitational, resulted in an 80-68 win over 24th-ranked Marquette in Nashville, Tenn., in 2009.
The Big Orange own a 39-41 all-time record against current members of the Big East and have won five of their last six games against Big East opposition. Tennessee holds a 4-1 all-time advantage in head-to-head meetings with Pitt, dating to 1961.
First-year Vol Dwight Miller, a forward from Nassau, Bahamas, spent his first two collegiate seasons at Pitt. Miller redshirted in 2008-09 before playing in 16 games off the bench in 2009-10. Miller attended Midland (Texas) College last year before enrolling at Tennessee this summer.
Austin Peay - Dec. 10
The first of six regular-season games against in-state opponents, the Dec. 10 clash with the Governors marks the eighth all-time meeting in the series. Tennessee owns a perfect 7-0 record against the Govs, with six of those meetings taking place in Knoxville.
Austin Peay is located in Clarksville, Tenn., and redshirt-junior forward Rob Murphy is a native of Brentwood, Tenn. Fewer than 60 miles separate the two towns. Murphy began his college career at nearby Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., before transferring to Rocky Top.
at College of Charleston - Dec. 14
This game presents yet another opportunity for Tennessee to avenge a loss from its frustrating 2010-11 campaign. Last New Year's Eve, the Cougars came to Thompson-Boling Arena and escaped with a 91-78 win. Not only does this year's contest offer a shot at redemption for UT's nine returning players, it also presents Tennessee an opportunity to even the all-time series with the Cougars. The College of Charleston currently owns a 2-1 edge.
Chattanooga - Jan. 2
Tennessee's non-conference home game against the Mocs took on an added storyline Sept. 5, when Dave Hart was introduced as UT's new vice chancellor and director of athletics. Hart's son, Rick, is the director of athletics at Chattanooga. Shortly after the conclusion of Dave Hart's introductory press conference on Rocky Top, Rick Hart Tweeted the following:
@AD_RickHart: Excited to have mom and dad so close to Chatt. It will be fun to work with him as a UT System colleague. Can't wait to square off in hoops!
The Harts don't provide the only noteworthy connection in this series. Houston Fancher, Tennessee's director of basketball operations, regularly faced Chattanooga head coach John Shulman in Southern Conference action when Fancher was the head coach at Appalachian State (2000-09). Fancher also regularly opposed The Citadel and UNC-Greensboro (both on UT's schedule this season) during his head coaching tenure with the Mountaineers.
at Memphis - Jan. 4
Bragging rights are always on the line in this annual intrastate rivalry, and this year's clash will be no different. The second-ranked Vols went on the road and toppled the top-ranked Tigers 66-62 at the FedEx Forum on Feb. 23, 2008. That win propelled Tennessee to the top spot in both major national polls for the first time in program history. The Big Orange also posted a 66-59 victory in Memphis two years ago before routing the Tigers 104-84 last season in Knoxville. Vols forward Jeronne Maymon scored a career-high 10 points in that triumph while going 5-of-6 from the field.
Tennessee holds a 14-8 edge in the all-time series with Memphis.
Florida - Jan. 7
The Gators, led by veteran head coach Billy Donovan, will be UT's first Southeastern Conference opponent of the Martin era.
Kentucky - Jan. 14
This matchup has long been one of the most storied college basketball rivalries in the South--Tennessee has beaten the Wildcats more than any other program (66 times). First-year Tennessee assistant coach Tracy Webster is familiar with the Kentucky program, as he worked as a UK assistant under former Wildcats coach Billy Gillispie during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
at Georgia - Jan. 18
Barring an appearance in the NCAA Atlanta Regional in March, this game marks the final time redshirt-senior guard Cameron Tatum will play in his home state as a collegian. A native of Lithonia, Ga., Tatum attended Tucker High School in Tucker, Ga., and then spent a year at The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., before enrolling at UT in 2007.
UConn - Jan. 21
The Volunteers fell to the Huskies 72-61 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., last season. The all-time series between UT and UConn is deadlocked at 1-1.
Interestingly, Tennessee has won each of its last three games against opponents who were the defending national champions. The Huskies, led by guards Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, landed at No. 8 in ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale's national preseason rankings. The Vols have won four straight home games against opponents ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press national poll.
at Vanderbilt - Jan. 24
As SEC Eastern Division rivals, the Vols and Commodores meet twice each regular season--once on each team's homecourt. If recent history continues, this first meeting of the year could go a long way toward determining which program takes in-state bragging rights into the offseason. This series has been swept in each of the last three years. Tennessee won both meetings against Vanderbilt in 2008-09 as well as last season. The Dores claimed both contests in 2010-11.
South Carolina - Feb. 8
When the Vols and Gamecocks tipoff for the first of this year's two regular-season meetings it will have been 1,817 days since South Carolina last defeated the Big Orange (81-64 on Feb. 17, 2007, in Columbia, S.C.). Since that game, Tennessee has reeled off nine straight wins in the series.
Additionally, Gamecocks head coach Darrin Horn was an assistant coach at Marquette when current Vols assistant coach Jon Harris was playing for the Golden Eagles.
at Alabama - Feb. 18
This is another game that took on added significance when Dave Hart was hired as Tennessee's vice chancellor and director of athletics. Hart came to UT after working since 2008 as executive director of athletics at Alabama, where he led the day-to-day operations of the Crimson Tide athletic department. A 1971 Alabama graduate, Hart played basketball for the Crimson Tide under legendary head coach C.M. Newton and earned a master's degree from UA in 1972 while working as a graduate assistant basketball coach with the men's program.
at LSU - Feb. 29
For this contest, it's the date that is noteworthy. The Vols have played only seven games all-time on Feb. 29, with the most recent contest taking place during the 1991-92 season (an 87-64 win over South Carolina in Knoxville). That is Tennessee's only "Leap Day" outing since 1964. The Big Orange own a 5-2 record on that date.
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin was handpicked by USA Basketball to serve as an assistant coach with the 2011 USA Men's World University Games Team last month in Shenzen, China. Several of the players who were members of that fifth-place squad will be taking the floor against Martin and the Vols this season. Those players include: Ashton Gibbs (guard, Pittsburgh), JaMychal Green (forward, Alabama), John Jenkins (guard, Vanderbilt) and Darius Miller (guard, Kentucky).
Prior to the team's trip to China, it spent a week training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. During that time, Miller and Jenkins spoke highly of Martin's coaching style.
"He does a really good job at teaching and explaining things," Miller said. "If you mess up, he'll stop. He does a good job at communicating with the players."
Jenkins appreciated Martin's ability to teach.
"The way he coaches is very unique," Jenkins said. "If you mess up, he will tell you what you did wrong and how to fix it. This helps us out a lot, and it's been keeping us trying to get better because most coaches don't do it that way. His style is unique and I like it a lot."