Hoops Central: #4 Tennessee at #17/16 South Carolina
Courtesy / UT Athletics

Hoops Central: #4 Tennessee at #17/16 South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The fourth-ranked Tennessee men’s basketball team travels to the Palmetto State for its final true road contest of the season, facing No. 17/16 South Carolina Wednesday night. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET at Colonial Life Arena.

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THE LATEST FROM THE VOLS

 Vols in the Pros Update: March 5Knecht Sets Program Single-Season Record with Fourth SEC Player of the Week HonorVols Earn Third Straight AP Top-Five Ranking for Third Time Ever t#4 Vols Notch 81-74 Comeback Win at #14/13 AlabamaKnecht Drops 39 in #4 Vols’ 92-84 Win over #11 Auburn
Fans can catch Wednesday’s game between the Vols (23-6, 13-3 SEC) and Crimson Tide (24-5, 12-4 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.

After its early 11-point lead become a seven-point second-half deficit Saturday night at Alabama, Tennessee stormed back to claim its second top-15 win of the week with an 81-74 triumph. The fourth-ranked Vols got a team-best 18 points from junior guard Zakai Zeigler at a sold-out Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide had won 16 straight SEC games in the building.

THE MATCHUP
• This is the second AP top-25 matchup between the two sides. In the first, #14 Tennessee won, 55-45, over #16 South Carolina in Knoxville, Tenn., on 12/2/72.
• UT is 10-2 in its last 12 matchups with South Carolina, going back to 1/20/18. In that span, the Vols have been ranked 10 times, going 9-1. UT is 5-1 in the last six meetings, with the wins by 29.4 ppg.
• South Carolina won, 63-59, at UT on 1/30/24. It remains the Vols’ lone home defeat of 2023-24.
• UT won both games last year against South Carolina by 40-plus points. It first claimed an 85-42 road victory on 1/7/23, with the 43-point margin the largest in series history. It followed that with an 85-45 home decision on 2/25/23. In total, the Vols logged a plus-83 scoring margin, 170-87.
• South Carolina was voted No. 14 in the SEC preseason poll after going 11-21 (4-14) last year, but already over doubled its 2022-23 win total, plus tripled its SEC tally.
• Junior guard Meechie Johnson leads the Gamecocks in points (14.2) and steals (1.0) per game.

NEWS & NOTES
• South Carolina is the third of four straight ranked teams—all are top-20—on UT’s schedule. The Vols have faced four straight AP-ranked foes just once, from Jan. 20-31, 2004, and have never played four top-20 teams in a row.
• In the last 20 years (2004-24), only twice has any SEC team played four straight top-25 teams in a regular season: Vanderbilt from Jan. 7-17, 2023, and South Carolina from Jan. 16-27, 2018. In the past 56 years (1968-2024), that Vanderbilt team is one of four to play four consecutive AP top- 20 teams in the regular season.
• UT has defeated AP top-15 teams in back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 18/25, 2000. No SEC team had done that during league play since Ole Miss on Jan. 9/12, 2019.
• UT head coach Rick Barnes‘ next SEC victory will be his 100th.
• Charleston, S.C., native Josiah- Jordan James is three rebounds from moving into the top 10 on UT’s career leaderboard and from reaching 800. He is also one point from the top 35 on the scoring list.

DOMINANT DK
• Dalton Knecht’s 24.6 ppg average in SEC play is the second-highest mark of any player in league action (min. two GP), behind only Zach Edey (25.3 in Big Ten).
• Knecht’s 20.4 ppg scoring average over the last two seasons is the fourth-best among all DI players active in both seasons.
• Knecht and Mason Jones (2019- 20) are the only SEC players in the last 14 years (2010-24) with six-plus 30-point games and/ or four-plus 35-point games in a season. Knecht is also the first player since Jones—and the only Vol ever—to win four SEC Player of the Week honors in a year.
• If Knecht scores 13 points at South Carolina, he would be the third player in at least the last 15 years (2009-24) with 13-plus points in 16 consecutive SEC games in a season, alongside Antonio Reeves (2023-24) and John Jenkins (2011-12). He would also be the fourth SEC player in that time with 13-plus in 11 straght road games in campaign, joining Antonio Blakeney (2016-17), Jamal Murray (2015-16) and Jenkins (2011-12).

RACKING UP RANKED VICTORIES
• In the past four years (2020-24), Tennessee leads all SEC teams with 20 AP top-25 wins, good for five more than any other SEC program (Alabama has 15). That ties Purdue for fourth in the country.
• In that same four-year span, UT leads the SEC in wins over teams in the AP top 20, top 15, top 10 and top five. Its 18 top-20 wins rank fourth nationally and 16 top-15 victories place third. Its eight top-10 triumphs sit co-sixth alongside Purdue and Texas, while its five top-five wins match Arizona, Gonzaga and Michigan State for the most 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), UT has played 34 games against AP top-25 opponents, the co-most in the league, posting a 20-14 (.588) 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 a distant second with a .455 (10-12) mark.
• Tennessee (34), Alabama (34) and Arkansas (32) are the only SEC teams to play 30-plus ranked foes since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

HIGH-CALIBER 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.
• The Vols are one of only 12 teams to earn an AP top- two ranking in at least two of the past six seasons. The others are Arizona, Baylor (three), Connecticut, Duke (four), Gonzaga (five), Kansas (four), Kentucky, Michigan, Purdue, UCLA and Virginia.

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 (167), winning percentage (.726) 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 three SEC schools with an overall winning percentage of at least .700, alongside Auburn (.721) and Kentucky (.700). No other team is above even .650 in that time.
• In SEC play over the same seven-year period, Tennessee (85-38; .691) is tied with Kentucky (85- 38; .691) for the league league in both victories and winning percentage. Only Auburn (79-45; .637) and Alabama (77-47; .621) even 70-plus wins.
• Over just the last three seasons (2021-24), UT owns a 75-25 (.750) overall record. That is good for the most victories and the best winning percentage of any SEC team in that span. Auburn (71-26; .732) ranks second in both categories.

POLL VOLS
• Tennessee has appeared in every AP Poll since the 2021-22 preseason rankings, a total of 56 releases in a row, far surpassing the prior program record of 37 from March 1999 to Feb. 2001. The Volunteers have been in the top 10 in 29 of those 56 releases, including the top five on 10 occasions.
• UT’s 56-week streak is the third-longest in the country, behind only Houston (82) and Kansas (61). The only other team at even 40-plus is Arizona (54).
• Dating back to the 2020-21 preseason poll, UT has made 70 of 73 releases (not the final three of 2020- 21), with 34 top-10 spots and 10 in the top five.
• UT has peaked at fourth this season, ascended to second last year, ended 2021-22 at a season-best fifth and placed as high as sixth in 2020-21.
• The Vols, who reached No. 1 in 2018-19, have been in the AP top six in five of the past six years, including each of the last four, after hitting that mark six times in program history before Rick Barnes‘ tenure.
• UT has been in the AP top five in four of the last six seasons, including each of the past three. It achieved that feat five times before Barnes’ arrival (2007-08, 2000-01, 1999-2000, 1967-68 and 1958-59).
• UT’s active 12-week AP top-10 streak (12/18/23 to 3/4/24) is the co-third-longest in program history. Three of the Vols’ five all-time double-digit streaks have come in the last six years under Rick Barnes.
• In addition, UT’s active three-week AP top-five streak (2/19/24 to 3/4/24) is the third-longest in program history behind just an 11-week tally in 2018-19 (also under Rick Barnes) and a six-week ledger in 2007-08. The Vols have earned two-plus consecutive AP top-five rankings 10 times, with six in Barnes’ tenure and three this season alone.

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