North Carolina, Gonzaga on basketball Vols' schedule

North Carolina, Gonzaga on basketball Vols' schedule

June 25th, 2016 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

UT mens basketball coach Rick Barnes is interviewed for a radio show. The University of Tennessee Big Orange Caravan rolled into town at the Chattanoogan on Thursday May 5, 2016.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.


> Nov. 3: Slippery Rock (exhibition)

> Nov. 11: UT-Chattanooga

> Nov. 15: Appalachian State

> Nov. 21-23: Maui Invitational in Hawaii

> Dec. 3: Georgia Tech

> Dec. 6: Presbyterian

> Dec. 11: at North Carolina

> Dec. 13: Tennessee Tech

> Dec. 15: Lipscomb

> Dec. 18: vs. Gonzaga (in Nashville)

> Dec. 22: at East Tennessee State

> Jan. 28: Kansas State (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

KNOXVILLE — Rick Barnes may have a wildly youthful team in his second season as Tennessee's men's basketball coach, but he didn't schedule that way.

Again Barnes accomplished his goal of building a "national schedule" for the Volunteers, who will be tested outside of the Southeastern Conference with a trip to North Carolina, a rematch with Gonzaga and games against some high-level mid-major teams.

Tennessee's nonconference slate, released Friday morning, is highlighted by the Dec. 11 visit to North Carolina, an appearance in the esteemed Maui Invitational and a game against Gonzaga at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The Vols open the season against UT-Chattanooga on Nov. 11, the Friday before the home football game against Kentucky.

"I learned a long time ago you don't want to be on Selection Sunday and know you're on the bubble and the word is you didn't play a tough enough non-league schedule," Barnes told reporters last month at the SEC spring meetings, where the league announced its teams must have a three-year Ratings Percentage Index average of 150 starting next season.

"Our deal has always been we're going to play as tough a schedule as we can play, but we're going to have our four or five bye games at home every year," he continued. "We're going to do that and we're going to try to get the best bye games we can get. If we want to brand our program as being a national program, we have to play a national schedule."

Such a slate won't be easy to play against, particularly for a team that again will be expected to finish near the bottom of the SEC with seven new players and two upperclassmen.

Tennessee and North Carolina have met in basketball only nine times, with the Tar Heels, losers of last season's national championship game, winning eight of them. They last met in the Preseason NIT in 2006. The Vols' only win against North Carolina was in 1949 in Knoxville.

Barnes, who spent four seasons in the ACC while at Clemson, is from North Carolina (Hickory), and the game will be a homecoming for Vols freshmen Jalen Johnson, Kwe Parker and Grant Williams.

The rematch with Gonzaga follows last season's game in Seattle, won by the Zags after Tennessee erased a 19-point deficit. The Vols' last regular-season game at Bridgestone, where they made a mini-run in the SEC tournament to close last season, was a win against Middle Tennessee State in 2009. Barnes, though, desires an increased presence in Nashville.

A game with Georgia Tech is the second in a four-year series. The Yellow Jackets won narrowly in Atlanta last season. Former Memphis coach Josh Pastner will be in his first season there after Tech hired him this offseason.

Matchups for the Maui Invitational haven't been announced, but the field includes 2015-16 NCAA tournament teams in North Carolina, Connecticut, Oregon and Wisconsin in addition to Georgetown, Oklahoma State and host Chaminade.

The game against Kansas State is a rematch from a game Tennessee won two years ago that was also part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

UTC, which returns the top three scorers from a 29-win NCAA tournament team, will provide a stern test out of the gates, and East Tennessee State nearly beat the Vols in Knoxville last season.

Tennessee is 33-5 all-time against the Mocs, who last beat the Vols in 2004 in Knoxville. ETSU's second and most recent win in 17 meetings against Tennessee was in 1991.

Appalachian State (9-22 last season), Presbyterian (11-20), Tennessee Tech (19-12) and Lipscomb (12-21) — Tennessee is a combined 29-1 against those opponents — round out the nonconference schedule.

The SEC portion of Tennessee's schedule will be released later.

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