INDIANAPOLIS - Coaching his first NCAA tournament Sweet 16 game also will bring a blast from Cuonzo Martin's past.
Tennessee's coach starred at Purdue alongside Glenn Robinson in the early 1990s, and tonight he'll coach against his former teammate and roommate's son, Glenn Robinson III, a starter for Michigan, when the Volunteers meet the Wolverines.
"He's a great family friend," the younger Robinson said Thursday. "I know my mom and my grandma are all close with him and his family, so we had a relationship throughout the years. He recruited me. Great guy.
"It's just funny how things work out, and now we're playing him in the Sweet 16."
Playing for longtime Purdue coach Gene Keady, Robinson Jr. and Martin helped lead the Boilermakers to the Big Ten's regular-season title and an Elite Eight appearance in 1994. In the regional semifinal game in Knoxville that season, Martin set a Purdue single-game record by hitting eight 3-pointers in a win against Kansas.
The Boilermakers' run that season ended against Duke in the Elite Eight, and Robinson Jr., who averaged 27.5 points per game in two collegiate seasons, left to become the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft after winning the prestigious Wooden and Naismith awards.
Nicknamed "Big Dog," the 6-foot-7 Robinson was a two-time NBA All-Star for the Milwaukee Bucks, won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 and averaged 20.7 points and 6.1 rebounds in his 11-year career.
"A great player, probably the best I've played with and against," Martin said.
A 6-6 sophomore, Robinson III is averaging 13.1 points per game this season after scoring 11 points per game as a freshman. He hit the game-winner at the buzzer in the Wolverines' overtime win at Purdue on Feb. 26.
"It will be fun playing against him," Martin said. "Of course, we'd like to get the win, but I'm happy to see where he's come and how far he's come as a basketball player. He's a great kid and I watched him grow up, so I'm happy for him."
Clash of styles
While Tennessee relies heavily on Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes, its two bruising post players, Michigan employs a four-guard lineup, and that could lead to Robinson III guarding Maymon and vice versa.
Both teams will feel they can take advantage of that matchup offensively.
"I think there's some times that matchups are really important, and some times I don't think they mean a darn thing," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "There's going to be times in this game where it's going to be a one-on-one situation and who's playing who and how well they can guard the other guy.
"But the actions they do, the actions we do, they negate a lot of those matchups."
The Vols typically switch on screens with everyone except Stokes, so guarding smaller players won't be new for Maymon, who was in some isolation situations with smaller, quick guards against Massachusetts and Mercer.
"Those guys were fast, now," he said. "Those guys were fast, but it's really no big deal. I'll sit down and move my feet just like anybody else.
"We've got a lot of players that are very mobile that can guard, including myself. It's all about the flow of the game, depending on what Coach Martin wants to do, whether he's going to play just me or just Jarnell. I know we're going to rotate, but I don't know how he's going to do it yet."
Stokes admitted Thursday he was "somewhat disappointed" in Tennessee's No. 11 seed.
"I felt like we were better than what they gave us," he said.
Michigan certainly isn't paying much attention to the number next to Tennessee's name.
"If you look at Tennessee's lineups," leading scorer Nik Stauskas said, "they have a lot of talented players with size and length. They're going to be no joke. We've got to take them very seriously."