Tennessee basketball to face Kansas again in SEC/Big 12 Challenge

The Tennessee basketball Volunteers get a rematch with the Jayhawks.

For the second straight year, Tennessee basketball will face the cream of the crop in the Big 12, the cream of the crop, in the SEC/Big 12 challenge. This comes despite the two teams’ wildly different finishes at the end of last year.

Jon Rothstein of College Hoops Today reports that the Vols will face the Kansas Jayhawks again, this time at home. The challenge is set to take place at some point in January of 2021, although with the pandemic-adjusted scheduling, everything is clearly up in the air.

Last year, Tennessee basketball faced Kansas on the road and lost 74-68. This will be the seventh straight year UT participates in the challenge, as four SEC teams are left out each year since there are only 10 Big 12 teams. Rothstein tweeted out all the scheduled matchups for 2020-2021.

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This matchup is clearly based on the projections for Rick Barnes’ team. After all, it usually bases the matchups on how teams did the previous year and tries to match them evenly. That’s clearly not the case here.

Before the pandemic shut everything down, Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the nation with a 28-3 record and regular season Big 12 Champions with a 17-1 conference record. Rocky Top, meanwhile, was 17-14 overall, 9-9 in the SEC and would have needed a conference tournament just to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

With Kansas being added to their schedule, the Vols will now face the teams that finished No. 1 and No. 2 in last years final AP and Coaches Polls before everything shut down. The Gonzaga Bulldogs, whom they will face in the Jimmy V Classic in December, were second in both polls.

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Other details surrounding the schedule are still unknown given how so many adjustments have been made, but it’s clear Tennessee basketball will have a difficult slate. With a top five recruiting class, a new graduate transfer who averaged a double-double, its returning leading scorer and the return of the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, the Vols should be able to handle it.