#9 Tennessee (24-7) vs. #5 Kentucky (26-6)
Saturday, March 12th, 2022 | approx. 2:30pm CT
Tampa, FL | Amalie Arena | TV: ESPN
Knoxville, TN – The ninth-ranked and No. 2 seed Tennessee men’s basketball team competes in its fourth straight SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday, facing off against fifth-ranked and No. 3 seed Kentucky at approximately 2:30pm CT.
Fans can catch Saturday’s game on ESPN and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (analysis) and Marty Smith (reporter) will have the call.
On Friday, Tennessee (24-7) opened the SEC Tournament with a quarterfinals win over Mississippi State, 72-59. Junior Josiah-Jordan James finished with a game-high 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting in the win, 14 of which came in the second half. James also had five rebounds and four assists.
James was one of five Vols to score in double figures. SEC All-Freshman Team selections Zakai Zeigler and Kennedy Chandler had 11 points apiece. Zeigler also had a career-high eight assists, while Chandler tallied six. Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Santiago Vescovi scored 10 each.
Kentucky (27-6) defeated No. 11 seed Vanderbilt in its quarterfinal game on Friday, 77-71.
Saturday marks the third meeting of the season between Tennessee and Kentucky, as each team has won one meeting this season. The Wildcats defeated the Vols in Lexington on January 15th, 107-79, while Tennessee grabbed a win in Knoxville on February 15th, 76-63.
With a win, Saturday, Tennessee advances to the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday at 12:00pm CT on ESPN against either No. 8 seed Texas A&M or No. 4 seed Arkansas.
Following the SEC Tournament, Tennessee will await Selection Sunday to learn its seeding and matchup for the NCAA Tournament. The 2022 NCAA Tournament Selection Show will air on Sunday at 5:00pm CT on CBS.
In SEC Tournament meetings, Kentucky owns a 12-5 edge against the Vols, but Tennessee won the most recent meeting (in the semifinals in 2019).
Overall, the Vols have won seven of their last 12 games vs. Kentucky.
These teams split their two meetings this season, with each team winning on its home court.
Tennessee is 3-1 this season against AP top-10 opponents.
Should the Vols advance to the championship game, they would face either Arkansas or Texas A&M.
Tennessee is making its fourth straight SEC Tournament semifinal appearance.
Tennessee stands at No. 8 in the NCAA’s latest NET ratings. Each of UT’s seven losses are Quad 1.
The Vols have faced 11 AP Top 25 opponents so far this season and own wins over the teams ranked Nos. 2, 4, and 5 in this week’s poll.
Tennessee’s 2021-22 slate is rated seventh nationally in the NCAA’s “toughest schedule” metric.
According to KenPom, the Vols rank third in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.2 points per 100 possessions.
Tennessee’s scoring defense of 66.4 ppg in SEC play was the best in the league. The Vols have held eight of their last 10 SEC opponents to fewer than 65 points.
Tennessee also led the SEC in assists per game during conference play (14.9 apg). The Vols had 21 assists Friday vs. Mississippi State.
All-SEC first-teamer Santiago Vescovi was the league’s top 3-point shooter during SEC play, hitting at a .445 clip.
Second-team All-SEC performer Kennedy Chandler’s 2.20 steals per game rank 17th in Division I and second nationally among true freshmen.
During SEC play, SEC All-Freshman teamers Chandler (2.24 spg) and Zakai Zeigler (2.22 spg) ranked second and third, respectively, in steals per game.
Over Tennessee’s last four games, junior Josiah-Jordan James leads the Vols in scoring (15.3 ppg), rebounding (7.3 rpg) and steals (2.0 spg) while shooting 55 percent from 3-point range (11 of 20).
SEC Tournament History
Tennessee is 71-56 (.559) in 60 all-time SEC Tournament appearances.
The Vols own the third-best SEC Tournament winning percentage among league schools, trailing only Kentucky (.832) and Alabama (.565).
Since the tournament was renewed in 1979, the Vols are 36-41 (.468).
Tennessee has won the SEC Tournament four times, tying Florida for third-most among league schools. The Vols won the event in 1936, 1941, 1943 and 1979.
UT has reached the title game 12 times (third-most among league schools), most recently back-to-back in 2018 (St. Louis) and 2019 (Nashville).
Tennessee has been the No. 2 seed four times previously (1979, 1982, 2012 and 2018).
This is the second time Tampa has hosted the SEC Tournament (same venue as this year).
As the East No. 1 seed in Tampa in 2009, Tennessee defeated Alabama and Auburn to advance to the championship game, where it fell to Mississippi State, 64-61.
Tennessee’s SEC Tournament record in Tampa is 3-1, and the Vols own a 3-2 SEC Tournament record in the state of Florida (0-1 in Orlando in 1990).
This week marks UT’s first trip to the Sunshine State this season.
Barnes In League Tournaments
Rick Barnes is 39-32 (.549) in conference tournament games as a head coach. That includes an 8-5 record with Tennessee.
He led Providence to the Big East Tournament championship in 1994.
Barnes guided Tennessee to back-to-back SEC Tournament championship games in 2018 and 2019.
Series History and Notes
The Kentucky series is UT’s oldest and most-played among SEC opponents. The Vols and Wildcats first met on Feb. 5, 1910, and have clashed 234 times over the years.
No program in college basketball has logged more wins over Kentucky than Tennessee (76).
Tennessee has five all-time neutral-site wins over the Wildcats, most recently in the 2019 SEC Tournament.
Kentucky is one of only two SEC?schools (Alabama) to lead its all-time series against the Volunteers.
Four Tennessee All-Americans were Kentucky natives: Allan Houston, Chris Lofton, Danny Schultz, and Paul “Lefty” Walther.
In each of the last six meetings, the team that has won the rebounding battle has won the game.
Top-Five Wins Not Uncommon
Tennessee has defeated six AP top-five foes during the Rick Barnes era, including victories this season over Kentucky and Auburn.
DATE OPPONENT SITE SCORE
Jan. 24, 2017 #4 Kentucky Knoxville W, 82-80
Dec. 9, 2018 #1 Gonzaga Phoenix W, 76-73
March 2, 2019 #4 Kentucky Knoxville W, 71-52
March 16, 2019 #4 Kentucky Nashville W, 82-78
Feb. 15, 2022 #4 Kentucky Knoxville W, 76-63
Feb. 26, 2022 #3 Auburn Knoxville W, 67-62
Contextualizing Tennessee’s Success vs. Kentucky Under Barnes
From 1995-2015—a period that spanned the tenures of six UT head coaches—Tennessee’s record against Kentucky was a combined 9-33, including a 7-26 mark against ranked UK squads.
The Vols under Rick Barnes is 9-7 vs. Kentucky over just seven seasons, with an 8-5 record against ranked UK teams.
For four of UT’s Barnes-era wins over the Wildcats, Kentucky was ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25.