The Southeastern Conference released Tennessee basketball’s 18 conference opponents for the 2021-22 season Wednesday.
In Rick Barnes’ seventh season, Tennessee will face Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M at home.
On the road, the Vols will face Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Georgia and Missouri.
Each team plays every SEC opponent at least one time and five SEC opponents twice. Of the five opponents schools play twice, three are permanent rivals that you play twice every season.
For Tennessee, those rivals are Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. While those are a favorable three teams for the Vols to play twice in 2021-22— Vanderbilt and South Carolina are expected to be two of the conference’s worst teams— the other two opponents UT plays twice are major challenges.
Tennessee will play Arkansas and LSU twice this season.
Arkansas will compete for the SEC Championship after a run to the Elite Eight in head coach Eric Musselman’s second season. Fayetteville’s Bud Walton Arena is also one of the most challenging places to play in the conference.
LSU will be down this season after losing its four best players from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. Still, after a strong offseason Will Wade’s squad will likely be in the top half of the SEC again.
As for the location of the seven opponents Tennessee plays once, the Vols will get two of the SEC’s top teams— Florida and Auburn— at home while having to travel to Tuscaloosa to play the defending SEC Champion Alabama.
Mississippi State will be a fringe NCAA Tournament team as well and will make a challenging road trip for Tennessee.
Between Tennessee’s grueling non conference schedule and a strong SEC, Barnes’ young team will be battle tested when March comes around. Of the Vols’ 31 regular season games, nearly 17 could come against teams that earn an outright bid in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
The SEC will release the dates and tip-off times at a later date.