KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utsports.com) -- Before elaborating on the specifics, here are some numbers worth noting:
14 - Number of 2011 NCAA Tournament teams the Vols will face this season*
11 - Number of games against teams ranked in ESPN college basketball expert’s Dick Vitale’s Preseason Top 12*
10 - Number of games against teams who posted a 2011 year-end RPI of 50 or better*
7 - Number of games vs. programs that have made a Final Four appearance in the past five years*
6 - UT's average national SOS over the past six seasons, according to RealTimeRPI.com
*-Number could grow, based on how the Maui bracket plays out
The Tennessee men's basketball program announced its 2011-12 schedule Thursday. In head coach Cuonzo Martin’s first season on Rocky Top, the Volunteers are set to play at least six games against in-state opponents, 14 games against programs who appeared in the 2011 NCAA Tournament and 10 contests against teams who posted a 2011 year-end RPI of 50 or better.
Tennessee’s schedule also features at least 11 games against teams listed in ESPN college basketball expert Dick Vitale’s preseason top 12.
And those opponent numbers could be bolstered based on how things play out at the 2011 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, which includes the Vols, Chaminade, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan and UCLA.
“This is the type of schedule that players want to play,” Martin said. “Tennessee has historically put together a great schedule every year. But when you look at the field in Maui, the games against Pitt, Memphis and UConn, and then add the SEC—which is going to have numerous preseason top-20 teams and some future NBA guys—this schedule might be the toughest one yet.
“But it’s great for our fans and our players, so we’re excited about it.”
The Vols are slated to play 17 regular-season home games, with eight coming during SEC play. Western Division opponents making appearances in Knoxville this season are Auburn, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Annual home-and-home matchups with Eastern Division foes Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt also line the way. Tennessee's 65 regular-season SEC wins dating to the 2005-06 season are the most in the league during that span. Last year, the Vols were one of five SEC programs to make the NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee's 10 non-conference home games include contests against Austin Peay, Chattanooga, The Citadel, UConn, ETSU, Louisiana-Monroe, Memphis, UNC Asheville, UNC Greensboro (EA SPORTS Maui Invitational Opening Game) and Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh game Dec. 3 in Thompson-Boling Arena is part of the revamped Big East/SEC Challenge, which now is contested at campus sites instead of neutral venues. The Vols shocked third-ranked Pitt 83-76 at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., last season. The Panthers recovered to post a 28-6 overall record and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last spring.
In Maui during Thanksgiving week, UT is set to face Duke before playing either Memphis or Michigan. Tennessee’s third opponent will be determined by how the event’s first two days unfold. The clash against Duke serves as a tiebreaker of sorts for both programs, as the all-time series is deadlocked at 7-7, dating to the first meeting 100 years ago (Duke defeated the Vols 48-25 in Durham on Feb. 20, 1911).
Tennessee’s non-conference road schedule also includes trips to play at College of Charleston, Memphis and Oakland (Mich.). The Big Orange lead the all-time series with Memphis 14-8, dating to 1969, and the Vols have won four of their last five meetings with the Tigers. The Oakland game, meanwhile, marks UT’s first hardwood appearance in the state of Michigan in 18 years (79-68 loss at Michigan State on Dec. 20, 1994).
With CBS’ national college basketball programming lineup yet to be announced, the Vols have at least 11 regular-season games set for telecast nationally on the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU). Regionally-syndicated games will be televised on the SEC Network as part of ESPN Regional Television (ERT).
The majority of intra-conference games not televised nationally will be available as a part of ESPN Full Court, the pay subscription college basketball out-of-market service, and on ESPN3.com. In addition, ERT will produce and distribute an SEC studio show each Saturday afternoon during conference play and at the SEC Tournament.
The regional television designations for the majority of Tennessee's non-conference schedule have yet to be announced.
The SEC Tournament takes place at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, La., March 8-12, and the NCAA Tournament gets underway March 13-14 with first-round games in Dayton, Ohio. Second- and third-round NCAA games will take place in eight cities March 15-18, and regional play is set for Mach 22-25 in Boston, Mass., Phoenix, Ariz., Atlanta, Ga., and St. Louis, Mo.
The Final Four takes place March 31 and April 2 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, La.
Exhibition play opens Nov. 3, when the Vols host Division II Carson-Newman at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee also welcomes Division II Lincoln Memorial University for its final exhibition contest Nov. 7. Both exhibition games are set to tipoff 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 "Meet Your Seats" events at Thompson-Boling Arena Sept. 6-7—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 4-7 p.m. ET each day, 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.