Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes and power forward Olivier Nkamhoua talked to the media over Zoom Thursday before the Vols hit the road for a two-game road trip.
First up on the road trip is the Vols’ first true road game of the season, taking on Colorado in Boulder on Saturday. The Buffs are 6-2 on the season and No. 57 in KenPom.
From Colorado, Tennessee heads to New York City to play Texas Tech in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday. Under first year head coach Mark Adams, the Red Raiders are 6-1 and No. 16 in KenPom.
The marquee matchup is being played at Madison Square Garden. Barnes — whose Providence Friars won the 1994 Big East Tournament at MSG — talked about the significance of playing in “The Garden.”
“The one thing I’ve learned after leaving George Mason and going up into New England, is just how big basketball is in the northeastern part of the country,” Barnes said. “People love it up there. I think it’ll be really a great thrill for our guys to walk into Madison Square Garden, as we know it’s the mecca of college basketball. … For our players, if they don’t know what it means to play in the Garden, I think that once they get up there and start thinking and talking about the history of it, they’ll realize it’s something that they should hold special.”
Nkamhoua discussed his growth from last season to this season, what Jonas Aidoo brings to the table and what he’s telling his freshmen teammates before their first true road game.
“I think one good thing about that for us is that our games are always packed, and the energy is always up there,” Nkamhoua said. “Regardless of where we travel, the only difference is the arena. The energy is going to be up there. You tell them a little bit that you don’t really know what to expect from the fans, because you might have a little fan section, but everybody else is on whoever’s side that’s more exciting to watch at times. There’s not much you can really tell them until they’ve experienced it, in my opinion.”