July 5, 2017
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee basketball program released the non-conference portion of its 2017-18 schedule Wednesday. Major-conference opponents for the Volunteers include 2017 national champions North Carolina as well as Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Iowa State.
In their third season under the direction of head coach Rick Barnes, the Vols will play host to a handful of regional opponents, including in-state foe Lipscomb. Presbyterian, High Point, Mercer and Furman are also scheduled to visit Thompson-Boling Arena.
A Thanksgiving-week trip to The Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis — a tournament which features four 2017 NCAA Tournament participants — rounds out Tennessee’s 12-game non-conference slate.
Fans will have their first opportunity to see the 2017-18 Volunteers in action during a Nov. 2 exhibition game at Thompson-Boling Arena. The opponent for that preseason contest has yet to be determined.
Tennessee returns nine players from last year’s squad that finished 16-16 and 8-10 in SEC play. Among those returners are five members from the highest-scoring freshman class in program history (1,140 points). Heading that charge was forward Grant Williams (12.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.9 bpg), who earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors. Guards Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner, as well as forward John Fulkerson, will also look to expand their respective roles as they enter their sophomore campaigns.
After playing as one of the youngest teams in the country last season, the Vols will boast six upperclassmen in 2017-18. Among those experienced contributors are rising juniors Admiral Schofield (8.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Kyle Alexander (3.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg). Tennessee’s lone senior is graduate transfer James Daniel III, who arrives on Rocky Top after a three-year playing career at Howard. Daniel is averaging 21.5 ppg for his career and led the nation in scoring during the 2015-16 season, posting 27.1 ppg.
Other newcomers include junior college transfer Chris Darrington and true freshmen forwards Zach Kent, Derrick Walker and Yves Pons. UT is also expecting to get a frontcourt boost from Jalen Johnson, who redshirted last season.
The Southeastern Conference portion of Tennessee’s schedule is expected to be released later this summer.
Season tickets go on sale in early September and single-game tickets will become available in October.
PRESBYTERIAN • FRIDAY, NOV. 10
Head Coach: Dustin Kerns, 1st Season
Last Season: 5-25 (1-17 Big South)
All-Time Series: Tennessee leads, 2-0
Notes: Presbyterian visits Thompson-Boling Arena for UT’s regular-season opener on Friday, Nov. 10. Located in Clinton, South Carolina, PC has an enrollment of 1,064.
First-year head coach Dustin Kerns takes over the reins at PC following the retirement of longtime head coach Gregg Nibert. Nibert led the Blue Hose for 28 seasons, guiding the program through its transition from NAIA all the way up to the NCAA Division I ranks.
A native of Kingsport, Tenn., Kerns is a first-time head coach, arriving at his new post after spending the last four seasons as associate head coach at Wofford. His coaching résumé yields a brief stint on Rocky Top as he spent the 2003-04 season at Tennessee as a graduate assistant under then-head coach Buzz Peterson. The Vols earned a berth in the NIT that season. Kerns received a Master’s of Science from UT in 2004.
Tennessee and Presbyterian are meeting for the second consecutive season. The Vols picked up a 90-50 win over the Blue Hose last December in Knoxville, led by a season-high 24 points Lamonte Turner and 21 points from Jordan Bowden — also a season-best.
The Blue Hose return their top two scorers from last season in sophomore guard Jo’Vontae Millner (10.8 ppg) and redshirt senior guard Reggie Dillard (9.8 ppg).
HIGH POINT • TUESDAY, NOV. 14
Head Coach: Scott Cherry, 9th Season
Last Season: 15-16 (9-9 Big South)
All-Time Series: No meetings
Notes: Tennessee’s second regular-season contest features another opponent from the Big South Conference when High Point visits Knoxville on Tuesday, Nov. 14. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
After capturing four consecutive Big South regular season championships from 2013-16, HPU went 15-16 last season, ending a streak of four straight postseason appearances.
Rising junior guard Andre Fox (12.7 ppg, .352 3PT%) was the Panthers’ second-leading scorer a year ago. His contributions will be bolstered by those of sophomore guard Jamal Wright (8.0 ppg, 3.6 apg) and junior forward Ricky Madison (6.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS • NOV. 22-24
Tournament Field: Arizona, NC State, Northern Iowa, Purdue, SMU, Western Kentucky, Villanova
Notes: During Thanksgiving week, the Volunteers join an impressive eight-team field at the Battle 4 Atlantis at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. UT is competing in the tournament for the second time, having turned in a fifth-place finish in 2013.
Tennessee is 12-12 all-time against the teams composing the 2017 field.
Highlighting the field are four 2017 NCAA Tournament participants, including No. 1 overall seed Villanova, Sweet Sixteen qualifiers Arizona and Purdue as well as reigning American Athletic Conference champion SMU.
The tournament bracket will be announced later this summer. For more information about the tournament and/or Atlantis Resort — just a two-hour flight from Atlanta — visit Battle4Atlantis.com.
MERCER • WEDNESDAY, NOV. 29
Head Coach: Bob Hoffman, 10th Season
Last Season: 15-17 (9-9 SoCon)
All-Time Series: Mercer leads, 4-3
Streak: Tennessee has won the last two meetings
Notes: The Vols and Bears are set to meet for the fourth time in the last five seasons with UT looking to grab its third consecutive win in a series that dates to 1913.
Mercer had made five consecutive postseason appearances — including a victory over Tennessee in the 2013 NIT and a famous upset victory over Duke in the 2014 NCAA Tournament — prior to last season’s 15-17 mark and a loss to ETSU in the first round of the SoCon Tournament.
Led by young core last season, the Bears are expected to return more than 94 percent of their scoring in 2017-18. Leading the way is senior guard Ria’n Holland, a second team all-conference selection who averaged a team-high 17.2 ppg last season. Flanking Holland are fellow seniors Jordan Strawberry (12.2 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Demetre Rivers (11.2 ppg, .475 FG%).
at GEORGIA TECH • SUNDAY, DEC. 3
Head Coach: Josh Pastner, 2nd Season
Last Season: 21-16 (8-10 ACC); NIT Finalist
All-Time Series: Tennessee leads 43-28
Streak: Tennessee won the last meeting
Notes: There is plenty of history in this series as the programs met annually from 1945-68 (Tech was a member of the SEC from 1932-64). This year’s showdown — the third of a four-game contract — takes place in Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 3.
Tennessee signed the current series contract prior to the 2015-16 season and has split its two subsequent meetings with the Yellow Jackets. The Vols fell in Atlanta, 69-67, in November 2015 before picking up an 81-58 victory in Knoxville last December.
UT is 15-19 against GT in games contested in Atlanta.
Arriving from Memphis prior to last season, Josh Pastner earned ACC Coach of the Year honors in 2016-17 after leading the Yellow Jackets — picked to finish 14th in the preseason ACC poll — to 21 wins. Tech finished the year as the 2017 Postseason NIT runner-up, falling to TCU in the championship game.
Senior center Ben Lammers — the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year — returns for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-10, San Antonio, Texas, native led the conference and ranked third nationally in blocks per game at 3.37. He also averaged 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Also returning for Tech is leading scorer and ACC All-Freshman Team honoree Josh Okogie. The 6-4 sophomore guard averaged 16.1 ppg last season, bumping that average up to 19.8 ppg during the Yellow Jackets’ NIT run.
LIPSCOMB • SATURDAY, DEC. 9
Head Coach: Casey Alexander, 5th Season
Last Season: 20-13 (11-3 ASUN)
All-Time Series: Tennessee leads, 3-0
Notes: The Vols and Bisons meet for the second consecutive season when Nashville-based Lipscomb visits Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday, Dec. 9. Lipscomb represents the only in-state opponent on UT’s non-conference slate.
Tennessee has a 3-0 advantage in the all-time series, but had to weather a hot-shooting night from the Bisons in last season’s meeting. Led by Garrison Mathews’ 28 points, Lipscomb knocked down 11 3-pointers in the first half and took a 58-49 advantage into halftime. But UT outscored the visitors 43-19 in the second half to grab a 92-77 win.
Lipscomb returns three of its four double-digit scorers from last season, led by Mathews, a junior out of Franklin, Tenn. Lipscomb’s leading scorer last season, Mathews putt up 20.4 ppg and garnered unanimous first team all-conference honors. Nashville native and Western Kentucky transfer Rob Marberry (12.7 ppg, .610 FG%) earned second team All-ASUN recognition.
Nathan Moran, a senior guard from Franklin, Tenn., averaged 11.1 ppg, knocked down 90 treys on the year (.417 3PT%) and handed out 4.2 apg.
NORTH CAROLINA • SUNDAY, DEC. 17
Head Coach: Roy Williams, 14th Season
Last Season: 33-7 (14-4 ACC); National Champions
All-Time Series: North Carolina leads, 9-1
Streak: UNC has won four straight
Notes: The defending NCAA champions visit Knoxville on Sunday, Dec. 17 as the Vols and Tar Heels close out a two-game, home-and-home series, which began last season.
Visiting Chapel Hill last season, Tennessee took the Tar Heels to the wire before dropping a 73-71 decision.
North Carolina is once again projected as a consensus top-10 team, despite losing ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson and freshman standout Tony Bradley to the NBA as well as senior forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks to graduation.
Senior guard Joel Berry II is the only double-digit scorer set to return for the Tar Heels. Named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, Berry (14.7 ppg, 3.6 apg) withdrew his name from NBA Draft consideration in late April. He scored a game-high 22 points in UNC’s 71-65 win over Gonzaga in the 2017 national championship game.
The Heels will also get some added depth with the addition of graduate transfer Cameron Johnson. A 6-8 guard, Johnson averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 33 games at Pitt last season. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining while in Chapel Hill.
UNC will also add five-star guard Jalek Felton, the nephew of former UNC All-American Raymond Felton.
FURMAN • WEDNESDAY, DEC. 20
Head Coach: Bob Richey, 1st Season
Last Season: 23-12 (14-4 SoCon); CIT Semifinalist
All-Time Series: Tennessee leads, 10-0
Notes: The Vols and Paladins meet for the first time since 1994 when Furman visits Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
The Paladins claimed a share of the Southern Conference regular season title in 2016-17, posting a school-record tying 23 victories and a 14-4 conference mark. After falling in the quarterfinals of the SoCon Tournament, Furman advanced all the way to the semifinals of the CIT.
Furman’s trip to Rocky Top represents a homecoming for reigning SoCon Player of the Year Devin Sibley. A Knoxville native and Karns High School graduate, Sibley averaged 17.7 ppg while boasting impressive shooting percentages of .522 from the field and .449 from three.
Also expected to return are senior guard Daniel Fowler (10.9 ppg, 3.7 apg) and all-freshman team selection Jordan Lyons (5.9 ppg).
at WAKE FOREST • SATURDAY, DEC. 23
Head Coach: Danny Manning, 3rd Season
Last Season: 19-14 (9-9 ACC)
All-Time Series: Tennessee leads, 8-2
Streak: Tennessee won the last meeting
Notes: The Vols and Demon Deacons meet for the first time since the 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in The Bahamas, where UT posted an 82-63 victory.
Last season, All-American and first team All-ACC performer John Collins (19.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg) led the Deacs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2009-10 season. Wake Forest fell to Kansas State in a First Four game in Dayton. After the season, Collins entered the NBA draft, where he was selected 19th overall by the Atlanta Hawks.
Wake Forest returns 12 of the 16 players from last year’s roster, including three starters. Rising junior guard Bryant Crawford (16.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.8 rpg) started all 33 games for the Deacs and led the team in assists and steals on the season.
Rising redshirt junior guard Keyshawn Woods (12.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg) and rising senior forward Dinos Mitoglou (8.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) are the other two returning starters for Wake Forest.
at IOWA STATE • SATURDAY, JAN. 27
Head Coach: Steve Prohm, 3rd Season
Last Season: 24-11 (12-6 Big 12)
All-Time Series: Tied, 1-1
Streak: Tennessee won the last meeting
Notes: The Vols and Cyclones will meet on the hardwood as part of the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge. It’s the third matchup between the two programs and the first since 1977.
Last season, fifth-seeded Iowa State advanced to its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament after claiming the Big 12 Tournament title, defeating Nevada in its opening game. The Cyclones were eventually eliminated by 15th-ranked and fourth-seeded Purdue, 80-76, in the second round.
ISU loses seven seniors from last season’s team, a group that accounted for nearly 82 percent of its scoring. Among the departed is All-American guard and second-round NBA draft pick Monte Morris, who led the team in scoring at 16.4 ppg.
Rising sophomore forward Solomon Young (4.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is the Cyclones’ only returning starter and rising senior guard Donovan Jackson (6.4 ppg) will be the team’s top returning scorer. Still, the ISU roster will be bolstered by the arrival of three 4-star prospects in guards Lindell Wigginton, Terrence Lewis and Darius McNeill. That trio headlines a Cyclone recruiting class that was ranked 18th by ESPN.