KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) -- Fresh off an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight this past spring, the Tennessee men's basketball program announced its schedule for the highly-anticipated 2010-11 season Thursday.
If the chance to make a school-record sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance under sixth-year head coach Bruce Pearl isn't enough to get Vols fans clamoring for "Basketball Time in Tennessee," enticing elements such as a historic ESPN College GameDay doubleheader on Rocky Top and a potential appearance in Madison Square Garden only add to the scintillation.
Before elaborating on the specifics, here are some numbers worth noting:
17 - Minimum number of regular-season games slated to be televised nationally (CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU)
15 - Number of teams with a 2010 year-end RPI of 100 or better that the Vols could face this season
12.4 - UT's average year-end RPI over the past five seasons; navigating schedules like this makes an impressive number like that possible
8 - Number of games against in-state opponents
7 - Number of 2010 NCAA Tournament teams the Vols could face this season
5 - Number of potential opponents who made a Final Four appearance in the past four years
"This schedule certainly presents a very new team with great challenges," Pearl said. "Every year we try to be certain that our schedule prepares us to compete for the Southeastern Conference championship. We also work very hard to build a home schedule that allows our fans to watch some of the best teams and players in the country."
The Vols are slated to play 18 regular-season home games, with eight coming during SEC play. Western Division opponents making appearances in Knoxville this season are LSU, Alabama and Mississippi State.
Annual home-and-home matchups with Eastern Division foes Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt also line the way. Since Pearl took the Big Orange reins prior to the 2005-06 season, Tennessee's 57 regular-season SEC wins are the most in the league.
Tennessee's 10 non-conference home games include contests against Chattanooga, Belmont (twice), Middle Tennessee, Oakland, Southern California, UT Martin, College of Charleston, Memphis and either Arkansas State or Missouri State (in South Regional action of the NIT Season Tip-Off).
If Tennessee wins its two home games in the NIT Season Tip-Off, it will advance to New York City where it could face opponents such as Wake Forest, Villanova and UCLA in Madison Square Garden. However, should Tennessee lose to Belmont in the opening round on Nov. 16, the Vols would host consolation games at Thompson-Boling Arena Nov. 22-23.
Games against Big East Conference stalwarts Pittsburgh and UConn highlight Tennessee's road schedule this season. The Vols travel to face Pittsburgh at the brand new CONSOL Energy Center (home of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins) on Dec. 11 as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational. The UConn game, meanwhile, comes during a break in SEC play on Jan. 22 (an announcement on whether that game will be played in Storrs or Hartford is forthcoming).
The Vols' Dec. 17 game at Charlotte will not be played at the 49ers on-campus facility, but rather at Time Warner Arena, which serves as home of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats.
The Vols have at least 17 regular-season games set to air on national television, with additional games available throughout the country on special cable/satellite provider packages. Tennessee plays three times on CBS, 13 times on the ESPN family of networks, three times on the SEC Network and once on FSN. All this, and the television designations for the majority of Tennessee's non-conference schedule have yet to be announced.
And Jan. 15 is sure to go down in Rocky Top lore, as the Vols and Lady Vols will co-host the first ever ESPN College GameDay doubleheader, with both programs battling in-state rival Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena under a national spotlight.
"I can remember our first year when we had three (regular-season) national television dates," Pearl said. "Having this kind of national television presence creates great visibility and exposure for our university and our student-athletes."
Fans also will have access to a live stream of 13 Tennessee games via ESPN3.com (formerly ESPN360.com). Every conference clash except for the Jan. 18 and Feb. 19 games against Georgia and the regular-season finale against Kentucky on March 6 will be simulcast on ESPN3.com.
The SEC Tournament returns to Atlanta's Georgia Dome March 10-13, and the NCAA Tournament gets underway March 15 with the opening-round game in Dayton, Ohio. First- and second-round NCAA games will take place in eight cities March 17-20, and regional play is set for Mach 24-27 in Anaheim, Calif., Newark, N.J., New Orleans, La. and San Antonio, Texas.
The Final Four takes place April 2-4 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Exhibition play opens Nov. 3, when the Vols host Division II Brevard College at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee also welcomes Division II University of Indianapolis for its final exhibition contest Nov. 8. Both exhibition games are set to start at 7:30 p.m.
Season tickets go on sale Sept. 8 at 8:30 a.m. ET and can be purchased online at UTtix.com.
The athletic department will host a "Meet Your Seats" event at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sept. 7--one day before the public sale begins--during which fans can see the available inventory for both men's and women's basketball season tickets and "test drive" their seats. The event runs from 3-7 p.m. ET, free parking will be available in the G-10 garage (directly east of the arena) and the ticket office will process all new orders on site.