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Vols ‘excited’ for rematch with Kansas in SEC/Big 12 Challenge

Tennessee will get another shot at Kansas this season.

The matchups for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge have been released and the Vols will host the Jayhawks on Jan. 30 in a rematch from last season. Kansas picked up a narrow 74-68 win at home in a game it was favored by 13.5 points.

“We’re excited about having a chance to play Kansas again,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said on Wednesday. “We had a really good game against them a year ago.”

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This will mark the eighth annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge and 10 games will be played on that Saturday. Kansas has beaten Tennessee in consecutive seasons, picking up an overtime win at the 2018 NIT Season Tip-Off championship game in New York City.

The Vols’ lone win against Kansas came on Jan. 10, 2010, when they upset the top-ranked Jayhawks at Thompson-Boling Arena. This season’s game is not expected to have a capacity crowd due to COVID-19 limitations.

“At this point, we haven’t figured out the issues yet and we don’t know at this point what we’re going to be allowed to do with our arena,” Barnes said. “We obviously don’t feel like it’s going to be anywhere near what we know Thompson Boling to be like, but as time goes on who knows what will happen.”

Tennessee will likely have a much better idea of what is happening by the time it hosts Kansas at the end of January, but there is currently a plethora of question marks surrounding the non-conference schedule.

The Vols are unlikely to face Memphis this season in what was going to be a neutral-site game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. They also had to cancel their season-opener against Wisconsin after the start date was pushed back two weeks due to COVID-19.

“As of right now, I don’t think we will have any of the neutral site games, because it just doesn’t make sense,” Barnes said. “…With the Wisconsin game, we tried. That was our opener and we just haven’t been able to make it work, with what they have to deal with, with their league games and where the flow of the schedule comes in.”

The SEC slate has not been set yet either. It was previously reported that the Charleston Classic and Jimmy V Classic would be played in a bubble in Orlando, but it has not been finalized yet.

Florida State, Houston, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Seton Hall, VCU and Charleston are also in the field. The games were originally scheduled to take place from Nov. 19-22, but will be pushed back now.

“We’re counting on it, but it’s not set in concrete yet,” Barnes said. “We’re hoping it is, to be quite frank, but we’re not there yet and won’t be until we get all of the guidelines that we need to know how everything’s going to be done there. That’s something that we’re counting on, but it’s not set in stone yet.”

The Vols were also scheduled to host Presbyterian, Tennessee Tech, George Washington, Cincinnati, USC Upstate and Norfolk State in non-conference play. It has yet-to-be announced what will happen with each of those contests.

Tennessee began preseason workouts on Friday at Pratt Pavilion.

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