Vols’ Sweet 16 connections

A year ago Tennessee’s men were in Indianapolis for what turned out to be a thrilling Sweet 16 game with Michigan. This year, of course, they’re watching it on TV. And so am I. So I spent part of my afternoon digging up links between the Vols and each of the Sweet 16 teams.

Notice coaching searches are a recurring theme. Without further ado …

Kentucky
Last meeting:
A 66-48 loss in January.
Series record: 67-151.
Connection: Tennessee’s 67 wins are the most any program holds against Kentucky. On the other hand, Kentucky has beaten the Vols more times than any other opponent.

West Virginia
Last meeting:
A 74-72 win in November 2007.
Series record: 3-5.
Connection: The Mountaineers elimiated UT in a 1989 first-round game in Greensboro, after which Don DeVoe was fired. Also, in a 1992 game against Bob Huggins-coached Cincinnati, Allan Houston passed John Stroud to become the second-leading career score in SEC history behind Pete Maravich. He still is.

Notre Dame
Last meeting:
A 73-67 loss in March 1979.
Series record: 0-1.
Connection: The Irish ousted Tennessee from the 1979 tournament with a 73-67 decision in Murfreesboro. Also, coach Mike Brey, then a Duke assistant, got some consideration in 1989 before UT hired Wade Houston.

Wichita State
Last meeting:
A 71-60 loss in Wichita in December 2013.
Series record: 1-2.
Connection: Wichita State assistant Steve Forbes was on Bruce Pearl’s staff for five years and helped recruit most of the players from that successful era. Word has it Forbes might be coming back to this area as ETSU’s next coach. Also, Wichita coach Gregg Marshall interviewed at UT in 2001 before Buzz Peterson was hired. Finally, freshman Rashard Kelly was a teammate of Tennessee’s Jabari McGhee at Hargrave Military Academy last year.

Wisconsin
Last meeting:
A 65-62 loss in Madison in December 2001.
Series record: 2-1.
Connection: Coach Bo Ryan indirectly helped Bruce Pearl get to Tennessee. Ryan left the Wisconsin-Milwaukee job in 2001 for the Badgers. Milwaukee hired Pearl from D2 Southern Indiana and the rest is history.

North Carolina
Last meeting:
A 101-87 loss in Maui in 2004.
Series record: 1-8.
Connection: Buzz Peterson, then best known as Michael Jordan’s roomate at Carolina, was hired to coach the Vols from 2001-05. Also, current Tar Heel assistant Steve Robinson was in the running for the UT job, either in 1989 or 1994. Those job searches have run together in my mind.

Xavier
Last meeting:
A 64-49 win in the Paradise Jam in November 2013.
Series record: 12-5.
Connection: Larry Austin, a Cuonzo Martin signee who was released after Martin left Tennessee, landed at Xavier. Austin played sparingly, scoring 17 total points in 25 games.

Arizona
Last meeting:
A 73-72 loss in November ’98 in Albuquerque, N.M.
Series record: 3-1.
Connection: Tennessee accepted two transfers from Arizona with good credentials but neither panned out. Etdrick Bohannon averaged 3.9 points in 1994-95 then left. Emmanuel Negedu averaged 1.9 points in 2008-09 then left because of a coronary issue.

N.C. State
Last meeting:
An 83-72 loss in December.
Series record: 3-7.
Connection: Mark Gottfried was 8-4 against the Vols as Alabama’s coach and, while at Murray State, was scouted by UT during the 1997 coaching search that produced Jerry Green. Also, in a 1991 game in Knoxville, Wolfpack guard Chris Corchiani broke the NCAA career assist record. His son, Chris Jr., plays for State this year. Finally, Wolfpack stalwarts Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner both played against UT in the SEC (for Alabama and LSU, respectively) before transferring to Raleigh.

Louisville
Last meeting:
A 79-60 loss in the 2008 Sweet 16 in Charlotte.
Series record: 7-12.
Connection: Chris Jones, a one-time UT signee, played most of two seasons at Louisville before being kicked off the team earlier this month. Coach Rick Pitino holds a 14-game winning streak against the Vols, his last nine at Kentucky and all five at Louisville.

Oklahoma
Last meeting:
A 55-49 win in December 1968.
Series record: 1-0.
Connection: Coach Lon Kruger has been around, including six years at Florida (1990-96). He lost his first game to Tennessee then ran off 11 wins in a row against Wade Houston and Kevin O’Neill.

Michigan State
Last meeting:
A 70-69 Elite Eight loss in St. Louis in 2010.
Series record: 2-5.
Connection: Tom Izzo and the Spartans spoiled the party in Tennessee’s only Elite Eight experience. Also, former News Sentinel basketball beat writer Mike Griffith is covering the Spartans for Mlive.com out of Lansing. He competes for page hits with another former News Sentinel basketball beat writer Brendan Quinn, who covers Michigan for Mlive.com in Ann Arbor. Current News Sentinel basketball beat writer Ben Frederickson is awaiting a call from Kalamazoo.

Duke
Last meeting:
A 77-67 loss in Maui in November 2011.
Series record: 7-8.
Connection: Guess who was Mike Krzyzewski’s freshman coach at Army in the 1960s? Don Devoe, then a young assistant to Bobby Knight. Also, Tennessee made a great contribution to Duke in the person of David Cutcliffe.

Utah
Last meeting:
An 80-71 loss in December 1978.
Series record: 0-2.
Connection: This one’s thin. Coach Larry Krystowiak was teammates with ex-Vol great Dale Ellis with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1991-92.

UCLA
Last meeting:
A 103-89 loss in January 1977.
Series record: 0-1.
Connection: Kevon Looney, a touted forward prospect out of Milwaukee picked the Bruins over Tennessee a year ago. He’s been an impact freshman, averaging 11.6 points and 9.2 boards. Also, coach Steve Alford was scouted by Tennessee in the 1997 coaching search. He was at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State). UT should have hired him, if for no other reason than to avoid an 81-51 embarrassment to Alford and SW Missouri State in a second-round NCAA game in 1999.

Gonzaga
Last meeting:
An 89-79 loss in January 2009.
Series record: 1-2.
Connection: Kyle Wiltjer, before transferring to Gonzaga, was the leading scorer in both of Kentucky’s games with Tennessee in 2012-13. He scored 17 in a Kentucky win in Lexington and 18 in an 88-58 UT romp in Knoxville.