The 2015-16 schedule for the Tennessee Volunteers basketball team was released Wednesday evening and it contains a few interesting matchups. This season marks the return of Kentucky as a permanent opponent – meaning the Vols will always play Kentucky twice under the newly revised scheduling format. Tennessee played Kentucky just once each of the last two seasons. South Carolina and Vanderbilt are Tennessee’s other permanent opponents.
Tennessee is scheduled to play nine games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Vols will also play seven games against teams that finished with a top-50 RPI.
The non-conference slate for the Vols will be challenging. Barnes will take his team to Georgia Tech (Nov. 16), Butler (Dec. 12), TCU (Jan. 30) and Gonzaga (“Battle in Seattle” Dec. 19). They could also run into Cincinnati in Barclays Center Classic (Nov. 27-28).
Tough schedules are nothing new for Barnes. He averaged a top-25 schedule the last eight seasons while at Texas and has publicly stated since his hiring that he won’t play a schedule at Tennessee that would leave the Vols on the bubble at the end of the year.
In total, Tennessee plays 16 regular season home games (plus one exhibition game against Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 6) and an 18-game SEC schedule. Every SEC game will be televised nationally this season.
In what assuredly will be a big game from a ratings standpoint – Barnes will open his SEC coaching career on the road against former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers (Jan. 2 on CBS). The Tigers will return to Thompson-Boling Arena, where they lost 71-63 to the Vols last season, on February 9th for a rematch.