Brendan F. Quinn breaks down Tennessee's 2013-14 SEC schedule
KNOXVILLE — If Tennessee men’s basketball is going to return to the NCAA tournament in 2013-14, it will have to maneuver a difficult SEC road slate to do so.
The conference released its full league schedule on Tuesday, revealing the Vols will have to play at Kentucky, Florida, LSU, Alabama and Missouri during the second half of the season. Those programs, along with UT, are considered the SEC’s top six teams heading into 2013-14.
Only Florida and Missouri will make return trips to Knoxville.
Overall, Tennessee will face Auburn, Florida, Missouri, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt in home-and-home matchups. Against SEC foes the Vols play once, they will play host to Arkansas, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Georgia and travel to LSU, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi State.
“I’ve never been the guy to say, ‘Why does the league have us playing this many teams or this caliber team on the road?” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “These are the teams in our league and we’re playing them.”
Eleven of UT’s 18 conference games will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3.com.
Tennessee’s lone regular-season meeting with Kentucky, the potential preseason No. 1 team in the country, is scheduled for a noon tip-off on Jan. 18 in Lexington. It will be nationally broadcast on CBS (WVLT locally).
Remaining league games will be televised on the SEC Network, CSS and Fox Sports Net.
As previously reported, the Vols’ non-conference schedule is highlighted by home dates against N.C. State (Dec. 18) and Virginia (Dec. 30), road games at Xavier (regular-season opener on Nov. 12) and Wichita State (Dec. 14, ESPN2), and a trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30).
“I think if you put (Tennessee’s non-conference) schedule up against anyone in America, it’s one of the best, if not the best,” Martin said. “If you’re talking about the caliber of talent and the teams we’re going up against, you can’t beat it.”
Tip-off times and television designations for most of the non-conference schedule are still to be determined.
Beside those challenging SEC road games, much of Tennessee’s postseason hopes could hinge on a 16-day stretch from Dec. 14 to Dec. 30. After traveling to Wichita State, a 2013 Final Four participant, UT will play host to N.C. State three days later and Virginia the following week. A date with Morehead State on Dec. 23 will fall between the N.C. State and Virginia games.
The rest of UT’s home schedule consists of USC Upstate (Nov. 16), The Citadel (Nov. 18), Tennessee State (Nov. 22), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 7) and Tusculum (Jan. 4).
Regarding UT’s game with Tusculum, a Division II program in Greeneville, Martin said, “When you’re talking about RPI and strength of schedule when you get down to judgment day (Selection Sunday), you’d rather play Tusculum College as opposed to a 250-300 RPI team, which ultimately ends up hurting you.”
In the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Vols will play UTEP (NBC Sports Network) on Thanksgiving Day before facing either Iowa or Xavier on Black Friday. The third day of the tournament will deliver Kansas, Southern Cal, Villanova or Wake Forest.
Martin said UT contacted the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament committee to request being on the opposite side of the bracket as Xavier, to avoid a potential second meeting.
“We made the call, but that’s how it turned out,” Martin said.
The SEC portion of the schedule offers two defining five-game stretches. During the last two weeks of January, the Vols will play at Kentucky, play host to Arkansas, go to Florida, play host to Ole Miss and travel to Alabama. From Feb. 11 to Feb. 26, they will play host to Florida, travel to Missouri, play host to Georgia and make back-to-back road trips to Texas A&M and Mississippi State
In the past, Martin has campaigned to eliminate short turnarounds between league games. This year’s schedule is void of the daunting Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday schedule sequence seen in previous years.
As a result of the elimination of SEC divisions, Kentucky won’t be making a regular-season trip to Knoxville for the first time since 1952-53. In 2014-15, UT will play host to the Wildcats, but not make a return trip to Lexington.
“I’d love to play them twice, but this is the schedule that the league presented,” Martin said.
In addition to RPI and strength of schedule implications, Tennessee also will take a hit in the wallet by not playing Kentucky in Thompson-Boling Arena. Thirteen of the top 25 attendance marks in Thomspon-Boling history — including a record 25,610 for a Jan. 21, 1989 affair — coincided with visits from Kentucky. Last season, 21,678 packed the arena for the Vols’ 88-58 thrashing of the Wildcats.
SEC play begins with an ESPN Super Tuesday date at LSU on Jan. 7. The game will be shown nationally on ESPN’s Tuesday showcase, as will UT’s home game against Florida on Feb. 11, another Super Tuesday game.
As they did last year, the Vols will close the regular season against Missouri (March 8) in a Saturday afternoon game on ESPN.
The SEC tournament is scheduled for March 12-16 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
UT's preseason opponents and dates remain unconfirmed.
By Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee football and men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/QuinnKNS
Related: 2013-14 Tennessee schedule
2013-14 TENNESSEE BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Date Day Opponent Site Television Time
Nov. 12 Tues. at Xavier Cincinnati, Ohio TBD TBD
Nov. 16 Sat. USC Upstate Knoxville TBD TBD
Nov. 18 Mon. The Citadel Knoxville TBD TBD
Nov. 22 Fri. Tennessee State Knoxville TBD TBD
Nov. 28 Thur. 1-UTEP Paradise Island, Bahamas NBC Sports Net 9:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 Fri. 1-Iowa or Xavier Paradise Island, Bahamas AXS.tv/NBC Sports Net 1 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Nov. 30 Sat. 1-TBD Paradise Island, Bahamas TBD TBD
Dec. 7 Sat. Tennessee Tech Knoxville TBD TBD
Dec. 14 Sat. at Wichita State Wichita, Kan. ESPN2^ 2 p.m.
Dec. 18 Wed. NC State Knoxville TBD TBD
Dec. 23 Mon. Morehead State Knoxville ESPNU^ 7 p.m.
Dec. 30 Mon. Virginia Knoxville TBD TBD
Jan. 4 Sat. Tusculum College Knoxville TBD TBD
Jan. 7 Tues. at LSU* Baton Rouge, La. ESPN^ 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 Sat. Texas A&M* Knoxville Fox Sports Net^ TBD
Jan. 15 Wed. Auburn* Knoxville CSS^ 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 Sat. at Kentucky* Lexington CBS Noon
Jan. 22 Wed. Arkansas* Knoxville SEC Network^ 8 p.m.
Jan. 25 Sat. at Florida* Gainesville, Fla. ESPN/ESPN2^ 4 p.m.
Jan. 29 Wed. Ole Miss* Knoxville SEC Network^ 8 p.m.
Feb. 1 Sat. at Alabama* Tuscaloosa, Ala. ESPN2^ 8 p.m.
Feb. 5 Wed. at Vanderbilt* Nashville, Tenn. ESPN3^ 8 p.m.
Feb. 8 Sat. South Carolina* Knoxville ESPNU^ 3 p.m.
Feb. 11 Tues. Florida* Knoxville ESPN^ 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Sat. at Missouri* Columbia, Mo. ESPN/ESPN2^ 4 p.m.
Feb. 18 Tues. Georgia* Knoxville ESPNU^ 9 p.m.
Feb. 22 Sat. at Texas A&M* College Station, Texas ESPNU^ 3 p.m.
Feb. 26 Wed. at Mississippi State* Starkville, Miss. SEC Network^ 8 p.m.
March 1 Sat. Vanderbilt* Knoxville ESPN/ESPN2^ noon
March 5 Wed. at Auburn* Auburn, Ala. SEC Network 8 p.m.
March 8 Sat. Missouri* Knoxville ESPN^ 4 p.m.
March 12-16 SEC Tournament Atlanta, Ga.
March 18-19 NCAA First Round (Dayton, Ohio)
March 20 & 22 NCAA Second & Third Rounds (Buffalo, N.Y. / Milwaukee, Wis. / Orlando, Fla. / Spokane, Wash.)
March 21 & 23 NCAA Second & Third Rounds (Raleigh, N.C. / San Antonio, Texas / San Diego, Calif. / St. Louis, Mo.)
March 27 & 29 NCAA Regionals (Anaheim, Calif. / Memphis, Tenn.)
March 28 & 30 NCAA Regionals (Indianapolis, Ind. / New York, N.Y.)
April 5 & 7 NCAA Final Four (North Texas)
1-Battle 4 Atlantis (Paradise Island, Bahamas)
* Southeastern Conference Game
^ Also also available through the WatchESPN app on smartphones and tablets
All Times Eastern & Subject to Change
as of Aug. 20, 2013