On the heels of their first SEC Tournament championship season in 43 years, Tennessee basketball tips off its seventh season under Rick Barnes Monday night. The Vols come in with higher-than-usual expectations given their offseason.
Ranked No. 11 in both preseason polls, UT hosts the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles in the season-opener for both teams. The Vols are coming off a 99-80 exhibition win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs 10 days ago, who start the year ranked No. 2 in both polls.
Led by fourth-year head coach John Pelphrey, who once coaches the Arkansas Razorbacks, Tennessee Tech is 11 days removed from an 80-69 exhibition win over the Cumberland Phoenix. Here is all the information you need for Tennessee basketball’s first matchup of 2022-23.
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Tennessee Volunteers
Monday, Nov. 7 | 7 p.m. ET | Thompson-Boling Arena | Knoxville, Tenn.
- TV: SEC Network+
- Live stream: WatchESPN
- Radio: Vol Network; The Eagle 106.1 FM (Cookeville, Tenn.)
- Listen online: UTSports; 106.1 online
Gambling odds according to FanDuel
- Line: Tennessee -36.5
- Over/Under: 142.5
- Moneyline: Tennessee -50000; Tennessee Tech +4000
Despite that tournament championship, the Vols are coming off an NCAA Tournament Round of 32 upset loss last year. They were the No. 3 seed and lost to the No. 11 seed Michigan Wolverines, finishing the year 27-8. A collection of returning talent and elite transfers, though, has shot up their expectations.
Included in that returning talent are five rotational players including two starters, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi, and a third, Olivier Nkamhoua, who is back after a season-ending injury midway through last year. Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic are back as well.
Meanwhile, the Vols added five-star wing Julian Phillips and high-profile transfer Tyreke Key. They also return highly touted freshmen from last year in Jahmai Mashack and Jonas Aidoo on the wing and at center respectively, and they added four-star freshmen B.J. Edwards and D.J. Jefferson.
This collection of returning and new talent will first be put to the test against a program still looking for its first winning season under Pelphrey. Last year’s team went 11-21, and the program hasn’t had a winning season in general since 2017-2018 under Steve Payne. They haven’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1963.
Only two starters are back from that team, Daniel Ramsey and Diante Wood. However, TTU added transfer Ty Perry from the Buffalo Bulls and two junior college transfers, Brett Thompson and Jayvis Harvey. As a result, this is a very different team.
This marks the third straight matchup between the Vols and Tennessee Tech. They won last year 80-69. The two have faced off 27 times in history, with TTU’s only win coming back in 1996-97. The last time they opened the season against TTU was 2001, which was Buzz Peterson’s debut. UT won that one 72-63 against a team led by Jeff Lebo.
Although they struggled last year, this version of the Vols is much more experienced and just as talented. Tennessee Tech has a bit of an inside game, so they’ll test the Vols, but Barnes has shown he can rely on three-point shooting if that’s the case. Rocky Top has an arsenal of those.
Based on what happened against Gonzaga, expect the same to happen here. The Vols will let it rain from three, and that’ll help them cover, so take Tennessee -36.5. That’ll also lead to this game hitting the Over 142.5. The score will look something like this: Tennessee 99 Tennessee Tech 47.
Up next for Tennessee basketball after this game is trip to Nashville, Tenn., for a matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes this coming Sunday at Bridgestone Arena. Tennessee Tech, meanwhile, hosts the Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs this Thursday.