Hoops Central: #4 Tennessee vs. #11 Auburn
Courtesy / UT Athletics

Hoops Central: #4 Tennessee vs. #11 Auburn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The fourth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team faces No. 11 Auburn in a matchup of two of the top four teams in the SEC at Food City Center Wednesday night. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET.

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THE LATEST FROM THE VOLS

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Fans can catch Wednesday’s game between the Vols (21-6, 11-3 SEC) and Tigers (21-6, 10-4 SEC) on ESPN2. Tom Hart (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 Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.

Tennessee dominated the final 25 minutes Saturday night at Food City Center to defeat Texas A&M, 86-51, and give head coach Rick Barnes the 800th victory of his illustrious career.

The Vols got a game-best 24 points, including 15 in the second half, from fifth-year guard Dalton Knecht in front of a sold-out, over-capacity crowd of 22,322.
THE MATCHUP
• This is the fourth time in the last eight meetings both Tennessee and Auburn are ranked, with the Volunteers going 2-1 in the prior three, including winning the past two. Prior to 3/17/19, both sides were ranked in just two of the first 85 clashes of the AP Poll era (1948-2024), each claiming one.
• Additionally, this is the 10th straight matchup with at least one team ranked. Before 1/2/18, only 27 of the first 83 AP Poll era contests featured a ranked team.
• Tennessee is 2-7 in its last nine games against Auburn after going 11-1 in the prior 12 affairs.
• Following a 21-13 (10-8) campaign in 2022-23 that included a second straight NCAA Tournament Round of 32 appearance, Auburn placed sixth in the SEC preseason poll.
• Junior forward/center Johni Broome is the Tigers’ leader in points (16.1), rebounds (8.6) and blocks (2.4) per game.
• Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl helmed UT for six seasons, 2005- 11, going 145-61 with three Sweet 16s, including an Elite Eight, and one SEC regular season title.

NEWS & NOTES
• Auburn associate head coach Steven Pearl played for his father at UT from 2007-11, while assistant coach Ira Bowman played for Rick Barnes at Providence for two years (1991-93).
• Auburn is the first of four straight ranked teams—all are top-20—on UT’s schedule to end the regular season. The Vols have faced four straight AP- ranked foes just once in program history, from Jan. 20- 31, 2004. UT, then unranked, lost to the first three before beating the fourth. UT has never played four straight top-20 teams.
• UT is a season-best fourth in the AP Poll. This is the sixth time the Vols have hit that mark in a season, including the third in the past six years under Rick Barnes.
• UT has won its last four games by an average 26.0 ppg, its first time with such a stretch in SEC play since 1965-66. That was also the last year UT had three SEC wins by 29-plus in a four game span.
• UT has six 35-point wins in SEC play in the last 24 seasons (2000- 24), with four in the last two years and two in the past four games.
• With Saturday’s win over Texas A&M, Rick Barnes became the 15th DI coach to log 800 victories.
• Santiago Vescovi is one steal away from becoming the second Volunteer with 200 and one appearance from tying Wayne Chism for second in UT history (142). Josiah-Jordan James is two blocks from being the 19th Vol with 100, including the ninth of that group with 100-plus steals.
• Dalton Knecht’s 24.4 ppg average in SEC play is the third-highest mark of any player in league action (min. two GP), behind Tommy Bruner (25.4 in Summit) and Zach Edey (24.9 in Big Ten).
• Knecht is one of six SEC players in the last 12 years (2012-24) to score 14-plus points in 13 straight league games in a single campaign. If he has 14-plus against the Tigers, he would be just the fourth with a 14- game streak in those 12 years.
• Knecht’s 20.2 ppg scoring average over the last two seasons is the sixth-best among all DI players active in both seasons. The only current Power Six player with a better mark is Zach Edey (22.9).

QUALITY COMPANY
• Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas and Purdue are the only four teams to earn an AP top-five ranking in each of the past three seasons (2021-24).
• In addition, Tennessee, Baylor, Houston and Kansas are the only four schools ranked in the AP top six each of the past four years (2020-24).
• UT is one of only six teams to reach the AP top six in four of the last six seasons (2018-24), joining Baylor, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas (all six) and Kentucky. Those are six of the only 10 schools in the AP top five in at least four of the past six years, alongside Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina and Virginia.

RACKING UP RANKED VICTORIES
• Over the past four seasons (2020-24), Tennessee leads all SEC teams with 18 AP top-25 wins, good for three more than any other SEC program—Alabama has 15—and tied with Gonzaga and Illinois for sixth in the country. It also paces all SEC schools in AP top- 10 victories with eight, placing co-sixth nationally alongside Purdue and Texas. The Volunteers’ five AP top-five wins in that span lead the SEC and are tied with Arizona, Gonzaga and Michigan State for the most of any team in the nation.
• The eight 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), #10 Texas (1/28/23) and at #10 Kentucky (2/3/24).
• Over the last four seasons (2020-24), Tennessee has played 32 games against AP top-25 opponents, the second-most in the league, posting an 18-14 (.563) ledger. The Vols are the only SEC team, regardless of number of games, with a winning record against ranked foes during that span. Auburn is a distant second with a .476 (10-11) ledger and Alabama ranks third at .455 (15-18).
• Alabama (33), Tennessee (32) and Arkansas (31) are the only SEC teams to play 30-plus 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 paces all SEC programs in total victories (165), winning percentage (.724) and postseason wins (15). In that span, the Vols have claimed a pair of SEC titles, winning the regular season in 2018 and the tournament in 2022.
• In that same seven-year stretch, the Vols are one of only two SEC schools with an overall winning percentage of at least .700, alongside Auburn (.722). The only other team above even .650 in that time is Kentucky (.698).
• In SEC play over the same seven-year period, Tennessee (83-38; .686) is tied with Kentucky (83- 38; .686) for the league league in both victories and winning percentage. Only Auburn (78-44; .639) and Alabama (76-46; .623) even 70-plus wins.
• Over just the last three seasons (2021-24), UT owns a 73-25 (.745) overall record. That is good for the most victories and the best winning percentage of any SEC team in that span. Auburn (70-25; .737) ranks second in both categories.

INAM: “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME”
• The Volunteers have posted 20-plus assists 11 times this season. They have reached 25-plus thrice, with a high of 28 against Vanderbilt (2/17/24)
• Tennessee has a 61.1 percent assist rate that ranks No. 14 nationally, per KenPom, through 2/25/24.
• 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 194 games as a ranked team in the AP Poll under Rick Barnes, posting a stellar 145-49 (.747) record. Over 65.0 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 124-44 (.738) record while ranked in the AP top 20 during Barnes’ tenure, a 93-31 (.750) mark while in the top 15, a 73-22 (.768) ledger while in the top 10, a 32-9 (.780) 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 24-20 (.545) in top-25 matchups under Barnes, including 18-13 (.581) with both teams in the top 20, 10-7 (.588) with both in the top 15 and 7-5 (.583) with both in the top 10.

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