Rick Barnes optimistic Tennessee basketball will start on time

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    Photo Credit: Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

    Tennessee’s basketball team is preparing to open the season as scheduled.

    The Vols are slated to begin the year with a game against Wisconsin on Nov. 11 in Madison. They are preparing as if the game is going to happen.

    “We got a call the very next day (after the Big 10 made its football announcement) from Wisconsin saying we are planning on playing here in our opener,” head coach Rick Barnes said Monday morning on a Zoom call. “We will wait and see.”

    Students are returning to campus for classes this week and Tennessee’s abbreviated football schedule is set to kick off in one month.

    “From where I sit and this is my opinion, we have to get football going first,” Barnes said. “I think it is so important we see these next couple weeks how it goes with students being back on campus. We have to get football up and going. That is the first and foremost thing.”

    Tennessee football’s season-opener will be at South Carolina on Sept. 26. The Vols are going to play a 10-game, SEC-only schedule.

    The basketball team is currently scheduled to face Presbyterian, Tennessee Tech, George Washington, South Carolina Upstate and Norfolk State at home during non-conference play. They will also take on Memphis on Dec. 19 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

    Another possibility for college basketball is putting teams in a bubble for early-season tournaments. Tennessee is part of the Charleston Classic field in November.

    “What might happen with some of the places where we might have tournaments like New York or Charleston, those kinds of places, there has been dialogue about maybe moving those to Orlando. There are a lot of teams in those that are going to lose games because the other team is not starting until January.”

    The Pac-12 has already announced that its non-conference games are likely going to be canceled. All sports within the conference are postponed until 2021, including college basketball.

    As for the SEC, a conference schedule has not been announced. The NCAA announced last week that it will “provide direction about whether the season and practice start on time” by mid-September.

    “I don’t know why we say September,” Barnes said. “Our first game wouldn’t be until November (11). I don’t know why we don’t wait as long as we possibly can. I just believe that maybe being an optimist that we are going to start on time.”

    Tennessee’s players returned to campus in June after several months at home. Two players tested positive for COVID-19, but all players have been cleared to return to workouts. There have not been any other positive tests announced by the school.

    “I personally still think we have to slow down a bit and see what happens and see how things go these next couple of weeks before we get to kick it off,” Barnes said.