Guest writer Spencer Morrell is the author of this article
Tennessee and Gonzaga will once again rekindle its basketball series during the upcoming 2020-2021 college basketball season according to a report.
Per Jeff Goodman of WatchStadium.com, the Vols and the Zags will once again meet on the hardwood for a non-conference clash this next men’s basketball season. The two teams will meet in December as a part of the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden, joining Baylor and Rutgers in the field. A specific date for the event has not yet been announced.
Sources: The Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden expected to feature the following matchups this December:
– No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 15 Rutgers
– No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 20 Tennessee
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) May 7, 2020
This will mark the seventh time Tennessee has played Gonzaga since their first match-up in 2007. It will also be the sixth time that the teams have met on a neutral floor. Tennessee has a 2-4 record against their foe from the Pacific Northwest and a one-game winning streak that dates back to a thrilling three-point victory during the 2018-2019 season.
The last time Tennessee and Gonzaga battled on the court the location was Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, AZ, and the Vols came out victorious in one of the best games of that college basketball season. Gonzaga came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation and led by elite forward Rui Hachimura, who would be the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft later that year. The Vols came in ranked No. 7 and led by junior Grant Williams and senior Admiral Schofield.
The game that took place that Sunday afternoon lived up to the hype, as the teams exchanged blows the entire game. Neither squad could pull away from the other as the gap between the two teams never reached double digits. Grant Williams fouled out of the game with 2:30 left in the contest, and Tennessee’s hopes for a big win seemed slim.
Admiral Schofield took complete control of the game from that point on, however, and he single-handedly shot the Vols to a 76-73 victory. Schofield mustered a career-high in made three-pointers by hitting six on his way to pouring in a career-high 30 points for the Vols.
For a game played in December, it felt a lot like March as the teams battled until the final buzzer.
The next time these two teams will play will be in New York City, and the contest will likely have a similar big-game atmosphere, as ESPN’s current preseason poll has Gonzaga ranked at No. 2 and Tennessee coming in at No. 13. However, Rick Barnes will be bringing a much different roster to the Big Apple than the one that played in the titanic match-up in Phoenix.
The Volunteers return All-SEC forward John Fulkerson as well as double-figure scorer Santiago Vescovi. Starter Josiah-Jordan James will also be back for his sophomore season with the team. The Vols are also hoping that double-figure scorer and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons will return for his senior season after exploring the NBA evaluation and draft process. Big man Uros Plavsic returns as well as Devonte Gaines, Olivier Nkamhoua, and Drew Pember.
The list of newcomers for Tennessee is lengthy and impressive. Jaden Springer, a five-star combo guard from Florida, will join the Vols, as will Keon Johnson, a five-star shooting guard and the No. 1 prospect out of the state of Tennessee in the 2020 class. The Vols will also gain the talents of 6-foot-7 Corey Walker, a four-star forward out of Virginia. The Vols welcome 6-foot-7, 245-pound graduate transfer E.J. Anosike, who averaged a double-double last season and led the Northeast Conference in rebounding while playing forward at Sacred Heart. He is also the younger brother of Nicky Anosike, a former Lady Vol that won two national championships under Pat Summit in 2007 and 2008. Victor Bailey Jr. will also join Tennessee’s available roster after sitting out a year due to his transfer from the University of Oregon. Bailey Jr. is a sharpshooter who led the Ducks in three-point percentage and free throw percentage his sophomore season at Oregon before his transfer.
The Tennessee basketball roster will also be joined by two Tennessee football players. Athletes Malachi Wideman and Damarcus “Dee” Beckwith both look to join the basketball team after their football season is over, meaning that they may not be available for the December match-up with Gonzaga.
When Rick Barnes arrived at Tennessee in 2015, he immediately began scheduling quality non-conference opponents, and that does not seem to have changed. Tennessee and Gonzaga have become familiar foes during the Barnes era in Knoxville, as this will be the fourth time Barnes will meet the Zags as head coach of the Vols. Other known non-conference games coming up for the Vols this year are dates with Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Memphis. Barnes continues to show no signs of shying away from quality competition outside of the SEC.