#12/#16 Tennessee (0-0) vs. Colorado (2-0)
Tuesday, December 8th, 2020 | 5:01pm CT
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena
Knoxville, TN – The Tennessee Vols men’s basketball team (at long last) tips off its 111th basketball season with a Tuesday night clash against Colorado. The opening jump is slated for 5:00pm CT on SEC Network+.
Tuesday’s game can be seen on SEC Network+, an online platform through WatchESPN and on any mobile device with the ESPN App. Fans can access WatchESPN at espn.com/watch. Roger Hoover and VFL Steve Hamer will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertlekamp describing the action.
Tuesday’s tip will be the Vols first game in 276 days and UT’s first matchup with Colorado since 1981.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with the Buffaloes, 2-0, dating to 1980.
A win would give the Orange & White a 31-3 record in home openers inside Thompson-Boling Arena and head man Rick Barnes an 18-1 record in his last 19 season lid lifters.
The Tennessee Vols Are Back
The 2019-20 college basketball season came to a screeching halt on March 12th due to the first major American spike of the global coronavirus pandemic. While the pandemic is far from over—to the contrary, it just delayed the start of Tennessee’s season 13 days—reaching tipoff on Tuesday is a moment worth celebrating.
When the jump ball is tossed Tuesday, 276 days will have elapsed since the last time the Volunteers played a game.
After their first four scheduled games were canceled, the Vols had aimed to open the season this Wednesday against UT Martin, but positive COVID-19 Coronavirus tests in the Skyhawks program last week led to the cancellation of that matchup. Tuesday’s Colorado game came together on Saturday and was announced—less than 72 hours before tipoff.
UT leads its all-time series with Colorado, 2-0, dating to 1980. The programs have not met since 1981.
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle was Tennessee’s director of basketball operations under head coach Jerry Green during the 1997-98 season. That team finished 20-9 and earned an NCAA Tournament berth.
Second-year UT assistant coach Kim English was an assistant coach on Boyle’s staff at Colorado for two seasons from 2017-19. During that span, the Buffaloes posted a 40-28 record. English helped recruit and develop several players on this year’s CU roster.
A Win Would
Give the Volunteers a 31-3 record in home openers at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Stand as Rick Barnes‘ 18th win in his last 19 season-openers.
Tennessee, ranked No. 12 in the AP poll and No. 16 in the coaches poll, enters Tuesday’s matchup with a 30-3 all-time record in season-openers at Thompson-Boling Arena.
This is Tennessee’s 34th season in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Thompson-Boling Arena will be at close to 18 percent capacity this season.
Given the reduced capacity, all 16 Tennessee home games are sold out and no ticket inventory remains.
A preseason media poll predicted Tennessee to win this year’s SEC championship.
Seniors John Fulkerson and Yves Pons were both named to the Wooden Award preseason top-50 watch list. Pons also earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy College Player of the Year.
Sixth-year head coach Rick Barnes has already recruited and developed four Vols who have progressed to the NBA. That includes one four-star, one three-star and two unranked prospects (per ESPN). Now, this season’s Tennessee roster features three five-star prospects.
About the Colorado Buffaloes
Colorado (2-0) was picked seventh in the annual Pac-12 preseason poll.
During the tenure of 11th-year head coach Tad Boyle, the Buffaloes have logged 19 wins over ranked opponents.
Senior McKinley Wright IV was named to the preseason All-Pac-12 team, while junior Evan Battey earned honorable mention.
Gifted guard Wright IV chose to return to Colorado after going through the 2020 NBA Draft process. Through two games, Wright is averaging 22.0 points per game and is shooting an impressive .643 from the field (18-28) while dishing out 5.0 assists per game.
Off the bench, transfer Jeriah Horne has made an instant impact in his first season in Boulder. Through two games, he’s the Buffs second-leading scorer with 10.0 points per game and the team’s leading rebounder, grabbing 5.0 boards per game.
Notable alumni of the University of Colorado include Spencer Silver, inventor of the Post-It note, and veteran ESPN broadcaster Chris Fowler.
UT Hit With COVID-19 Cancellations
So far this season, Tennessee has seen five scheduled games canceled.
Tennessee was originally slated to open its season on November 25th, but the program was forced to pause team activities on November 23rd after multiple individuals tested positive for COVID-19 (including coach Rick Barnes).
That temporary shutdown forced the cancellation of four games—Charlotte (November 25th), VCU (November 27th), vs. Gonzaga (December 2nd) and at Notre Dame (December 4th).
The Charlotte and VCU games would have been part of a three-team multi-team-event (MTE) hosted by Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Vols would have faced top-ranked Gonzaga in a neutral-site showdown as part of the Jimmy V Classic in Indianapolis. As part of that same road trip, Tennessee would have bused to South Bend after the Gonzaga game to play a true road game at Notre Dame.
Most recently, three days after the announcement of a replacement game on December 9th against UT Martin, positive COVID-19 Coronavirus tests within the Skyhawks program forced the cancellation of that matchup.
Longest Layoff In 56 Years
Tennessee was less than two hours from tipping off against Alabama at the SEC Tournament in Nashville when the college basketball world screeched to a halt on March 12th. The Vols had last played on March 7th, at Auburn.
When the clock starts Tuesday for the Vols’ season-opener vs. Colorado, 276 days will have elapsed between games for UT.
That stands as the program’s longest duration between games since 277 days elapsed between the end of the 1963-64 season (ended on February 29th, 1964) and the 1964-65 campaign (started on December 2nd, 1964).
Pandemic Protocols Lead To Adjust Seating Plan
To comply with health and safety recommendations from the CDC, local officials and the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee has implemented an adjusted-seating ticket plan at Thompson-Boling Arena this season.
Gameday capacity will be close to 4,000—or about 18 percent of the venue’s normal capacity (21,678).
To allow for a mandatory 12-foot buffer between the general public and essential personnel on and around the court, the first five rows of the arena’s lower bowl will remain vacant.=
SEC guidelines for indoor events explicitly state that all references to “physically distanced” means a minimum of six feet. Thus, seating pods will be spaced at least six feet apart throughout the arena.
League Media Picks Vols To Win Regular-Season Championship
In mid-November, a panel of league media picked Tennessee to win the SEC regular-season title.
The media tabbed John Fulkerson as a first-team preseason All-SEC selection and placed Yves Pons on the second team. Both seniors were among the select group of players who received preseason votes for SEC Player of the Year.
The league’s 14 head coaches picked both Pons and Fulkerson as preseason All-SEC first-teamers.
The Vols’ 2020-21 roster features 17 players (13 scholarship student-athletes) representing eight states as well as Finland, France, Serbia and Uruguay.
There are five Vols who hail from the state of Tennessee, two from North Carolina and one each from Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Texas.
UT has three seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen.
Six Vols stand 6-5 or shorter, and 11 players are 6-6 or taller.
Three We’ll Miss
Last season was a farewell tour for three Vols who were key to establishing the culture of the Tennessee basketball program under Rick Barnes.
Guards Lamonté Turner and Jordan Bowden both were 1,000-point scorers and impactful two-way players. Bowden has been invited to attend training camp with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
Veteran wing Jalen Johnson provided important depth for three seasons before earning his degree and transitioning to Wake Forest as a grad transfer.
Unity Mark: “Give Light”
For 50 years, the Volunteer statue, best known by its nickname, the Torchbearer, has been the proud embodiment of a Tennessee Volunteer, a combination of leadership and service that improves the world around us.
The torch is a symbol of knowledge, enlightenment, truth and intellectual optimism—the belief that the light of truth and reason overcomes the darkness of ignorance.
A torch is prominently featured in this year’s Tennessee Athletics unity patch, held aloft by two Volunteers of different races, joining forces to champion UT’s Torchbearer Creed: “One who beareth the torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.”
The basketball Vols are wearing the unity patch on the right side of their jerseys, just above the Nike swoosh.
Up Next for Tennessee Men’s Basketball
Tennessee Men’s Basketball will remain at home for a Saturday contest with Cincinnati. Tipoff inside Thompson-Boling Arena is set for 10:30pm CT on SEC Network Alternate.