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Vols schedule neutral-site showdown with No. 1 team in country

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

No. 12 Tennessee and No. 1 Gonzaga have scheduled a neutral-site showdown for Dec. 2 in Indianapolis.

The Vols and Zags at Indy’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse as part of ESPN’s Jimmy V Classic doubleheader. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The night’s second matchup features No. 2 Baylor against No. 8 Illinois.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s Jimmy V Classic will not have fans in attendance. Indianapolis also is the site of this season’s Final Four in April.

This will be the seventh all-time meeting between Tennessee and Gonzaga. The Vols upset the top-ranked and previously unbeaten Zags in Phoenix on Dec. 9, 2018.

The Vols and Bulldogs have previously met in Seattle (2007 and 2015), Orlando (2008), Nashville (2016), Phoenix (2018) and once in Knoxville in 2009. Gonzaga leads the series, 4-2. At least one of the teams has been ranked in the AP top 25 for five of the previous six matchups.

This will be the third meeting between the two teams since Rick Barnes has been the head coach of the Vols. He and Gonzaga head coach Mark Few scheduled a two-game, neutral-site series that saw the Vols travel to Seattle (Key Arena) in December of 2015 before the Bulldogs came to Nashville (Bridgestone Arena) in 2016. Gonzaga won both contests.

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Tennessee’s other win in the series was an 82-72 victory in Seattle on Dec. 29, 2007.

The Vols return nine scholarship players from last year’s team that went 17-14 in the regular season and 9-9 in SEC play. Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner and Jalen Johnson are the only departures. Bowden and Turner graduated, while Johnson ultimately transferred to Wake Forest as a graduate transfer.

Tennessee returns 67.7 percent of its scoring from a season ago with Pons back in the mix, according to UT basketball SID Tom Satkowiak. The Vols also return 69.7 percent of their rebounding production, 85.6 percent of their blocked shots, 66.1 percent of their steals, 68.7 percent of their minutes played and 71.6 percent of their starts.

Five-star combo-guard signee Jaden Springer and fellow five-star guard signee Keon Johnson are expected to have a significant impact on the Vols this season. Four-star power forward signee Corey Walker has also impressed since stepping foot on campus.

Tennessee is scheduled to begin its season on Nov. 25 against Charlotte as part of a three-team event it’ll host in Knoxville. The Vols will then play VCU on Nov. 27.

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