Hoops Central: #6/7 Tennessee vs. Alabama

Courtesy / UT Athletics

Hoops Central: #6/7 Tennessee vs. Alabama

Courtesy /UT Athletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The sixth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team caps a two-game homestand Saturday afternoon against Alabama at Food City Center. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. ET.

Fans, please be advised that due to inclement weather throughout the week, changes may occur to traffic patterns, parking, gate entry and concourse activities for Saturday’s game. Stay tuned to @Vol_Hoops for more info.

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TENNESSEE

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ALABAMA

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THE LATEST FROM THE VOLS

 Basketball Game vs. Alabama an “Orange Out”Knecht Scores 39 in 85-66 Victory overFloridaKnechtTabbed a USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of theWeekKnechtChosen as SEC Co-Player of theWeekVolsPlace No. 6/7 Nationally

Fans can catch Saturday’s game between the Vols (13-4, 3-1 SEC) and Crimson Tide (12-5, 4-0 SEC) on ESPN2. Karl Ravech (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Steve Hamer describing the action.

In Tennessee’s 85-66 win over Florida Tuesday, fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht poured in a career-high 39 points. Knecht became the first Volunteer with back-to-back 30-point games since Chris Lofton in Feb. 2006.

THE MATCHUP
• Tennessee and Alabama have split their last eight meetings, dating back to 3/4/17, with the Crimson Tide 3-1 in the last four after the Vols were 3-1 in the prior four.
• Eight of last nine games in the series, including the past six, have been decided by single digits.
• Last year, No. 10/11 Tennessee knocked off top-ranked Alabama, 68-59, on 2/15/23 in Knoxville, Tenn. The shorthanded Volunteers, playing without Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips, got 15 points apiece from Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler, along with a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double from Jonas Aidoo. They also held Brandon Miller to 4-of-11 shooting.
• Picked fifth in this year’s SEC preseason poll, Alabama is coming off a campaign in which it went 31-6 (16-2), swept the SEC titles, reached the Sweet 16 and finished top-four in both polls.
• Alabama senior guard Mark Sears, a Preseason Second Team All-SEC pick, is the leading scorer in the SEC at 19.6 ppg and has eight 20-point performances this year.

NEWS & NOTES
• The Vols and Tide are both top- eight nationally in NET, KenPom, ESPN BPI, BartTorvik and Haslametrics analytical rankings.
• Tennessee redshirt freshman D.J. Jefferson and Alabama sophomore Rylen Griffin are from Richardson, Texas, and played against each other in high school while the former was at Berkner and the latter was at Richardson.
• Tennessee freshman Cade Phillips is a native of Jacksonville, Ala., whose dad (John David Phillips), uncle (Brodie Croyle) and grandfather (John Croyle) all played football at Alabama, while his mother (Reagan [Croyle] Phillips) played basketball there.
• UT head coach Rick Barnes‘ only other job in the SEC was as an assistant at Alabama in 1985-86.
• Santiago Vescovi is one start away from tying Chris Lofton (2004- 08) and Allan Houston (1989-93) for the most in UT history with 128. He is also two minutes away from becoming the fourth Vol to play 4,000, alongside Houston, C.J. Watson (2002-06) and Tony White (1983-87).

DOMINANT DK
• Dalton Knecht, the SEC’s active career PPG leader (15.15) has 103 points in the last three games, with 101 in the last 99 minutes.
• The only other SEC players in the last 15 seasons (2009-24) with 100 points in a three-game span are Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree (101 in Feb. 2020) and Arkansas’ Mason Jones (104 in Jan./Feb. 2020).
• Knecht is the sixth player in UT history with three 35-point games, alongside Bernard King (11), Ernie Grunfeld (eight), Allan Houston (six), Tony White (four) and Dale Ellis (three). Only Knecht, King (thrice), Grunfeld and White achieved the feat within a season.
• The only players in UT history with back-to-back 35-point showings are Dalton Knecht, Allan Houston (Dec. 1990 & Feb. 1990), Bernard King (Feb./March 1977), Ernie Grunfeld (March 1976 & Dec. 1975) and Ron Widby (March 1967). Just four instances were in SEC play.
• Per Jared Berson, Knecht is the first SEC player to log back-to- back 35-point outings in nearly 33 years, with LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal the last to do so in Feb. 1991.

RACKING UP RANKED VICTORIES
• Over the past four seasons (2020-24), Tennessee leads all SEC teams in AP top-25 wins with 17, good for co-seventh nationally. It is also tied for with Arkansas for first among SEC schools in AP top-10 victories with seven, placing co-sixth nationally. UT’s five AP top-five wins in that span pace the SEC and are tied for the most of any team in America.
• The seven AP top-10 triumphs during that time are: #1 Alabama (2/15/23), #3 Kansas (11/25/22), #3 Auburn (2/26/22), #4 Kentucky (2/15/22), #5 Kentucky (3/12/22), #6 Arizona (12/22/21) and #10 Texas (1/28/23).
• Over the last four seasons (2020-24), Tennessee has played a league-high 31 games against AP Top 25 opponents, going 17-14 (.548). The Vols are the only SEC team, regardless of number of games, with a winning record against ranked foes during that span, while Alabama is second at 13-15 (.464).
• Tennessee (31), Arkansas (29), Alabama (28) and Missouri (26) are the only SEC teams to play over 25 ranked foes since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

WINNING WAYS
• Over the last seven seasons, dating back to the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Tennessee leads all SEC teams in postseason wins (15), while placing a close second in in total victories (157) and winning percentage (.720). In that span, the Vols have claimed a pair of SEC championships, winning the regular season in 2018 and the tournament in 2022.
• In that same seven-year stretch, the Vols are one of only three SEC schools with an overall winning percentage over .700, alongside Auburn (.728) and Kentucky (.706). No other SEC team is at even .655.
• In SEC play over the same seven-year period, Tennessee (75-36; .676) is second in the league in both victories and winning percentage, trailing just Kentucky (77-34; .694). The only other team with 70-plus wins is Auburn (72-40; .643).
• Over the last three seasons only (2021-24), UT owns a 65-23 (.739) overall record. That is good for the most victories and the best winning percentage of any SEC team in that span.

INAM: “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME”
• The Volunteers have posted 20-plus assists six times this season, including in five of the past nine contests. They have 25-plus twice this season, with a high of 27 against George Mason (12/5/23).
• Tennessee has a 61.5 percent assist rate that ranks No. 20 nationally, per KenPom, through 1/17/24.
• Last season, Tennessee placed second nationally, per KenPom, with a 66.2 percent assist rate. It also logged a 64.9 percent mark in SEC play.

POLL PRESENCE
• Tennessee has played 184 games as a ranked team in the AP Poll under Rick Barnes, posting a stellar 137-47 (.745) record. Over 64.5 percent of the Volunteers’ games since Barnes arrived in 2015-16 have come with the team ranked in the AP Poll.
• Furthermore, UT owns a 116-42 (.734) record while ranked in the AP top 20 during Barnes’ tenure, an 85-29 (.746) mark while in the top 15, a 65-20 (.765) ledger while in the top 10, a 28-8 (.778) tally while in the top five, a 17-2 (.895) record while in the top three and a 7-1 (.875) mark while at No. 1.
• The Vols are 23-20 (.535) in top-25 matchups under Barnes, including 17-13 (.567) with both teams in the top 20, 9-7 (.562) with both in the top 15 and 6-5 (.545) with both in the top 10.

NATIONALLY KNOWN
• On 1/10/24, Dalton Knecht was named to both the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch List and the Lute Olson Award Midseason Watch List.
• Santiago Vescovi claimed Blue Ribbon Preseason Fourth Team All-America honors. He was one of four SEC players on the list, joining Mississippi State’s Tolu Smith (Second), Texas A&M’s Wade Taylor IV (Second) and Auburn’s Johni Broome (Third).
• Vescovi, for the second straight year, also made both the Naismith Trophy Preseason Watch List and the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 Watch List.

Courtesy / UT Athletics

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