(UNDATED) -- The Tennessee basketball team will begin play at the 2012 SEC Tournament Friday when it faces the winner of Thursday’s opening-round game between Ole Miss and Auburn. Tip-off for the Volunteers’ quarterfinal contest is set for 6:30 p.m. CT (7:30 p.m. ET on WVLT) at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La. The game will be televised regionally on the SEC Network.
Tennessee heads to New Orleans as the tournament’s No. 2 seed after winning eight of its last nine games and finishing with a 10-6 record in SEC play (18-13 overall). The Vols join No. 1 seed Kentucky, No. 3 seed Vanderbilt, and No. 4 seed Florida as the four teams who earned first-round byes and are not playing on Thursday. Tennessee departs for New Orleans Wednesday afternoon.
Ole Miss is the No. 7 seed in next week’s tournament, while Auburn is seeded No. 10. Tennessee won each of its regular-season contests against the Rebels and Tigers this year, with both victories coming in Knoxville. The Vols are 8-3 all-time against Auburn in the SEC Tournament, but own a 5-6 record against Ole Miss.
The Big Orange have fared well in their second meeting with SEC opponents this season, going 4-1 in regular-season rematches. The Vols won their second games vs. Florida, Vanderbilt, Georgia and South Carolina but were defeated in their second clash with Kentucky.
The other teams on UT’s side of the SEC Tournament bracket are No. 3 seed Vanderbilt, No. 6 seed Mississippi State and No. 11 seed Georgia.
During years in which the SEC Tournament was seeded 1-12 and not divisionally (1979-91), Tennessee twice entered the event as the No. 2 seed. In 1979, the second-seeded Vols downed Auburn and Kentucky en route to the tournament championship. In 1982, the second-seeded Vols defeated Vanderbilt before falling to Alabama.
Tennessee’s four all-time SEC Tournament championships (1936, 1941, 1942 and 1979) are third-most among league schools. Only Kentucky (27) and Alabama (6) have more SEC Tournament crowns.
The Vols boast a .561 winning percentage in the SEC Tournament (60-47 in 51 appearances). That percentage also ranks third in the conference, behind Kentucky (.842) and Alabama (.567).
Since 1979 – when the SEC Tournament was resumed following a 26-year absence – the Vols are 3-3 in their first tournament game under a new head coach. Don DeVoe (1979), Jerry Green (1998) and Buzz Peterson (2002) all notched victories in their tournament debut with the Vols.