NASHVILLE, Tennessee — It's been 40 years since the Tennessee men's basketball program won a SEC Tournament Title. Now, only 40 minutes stand between them and another championship. Well, 40 minutes and the Auburn Tigers.
The Vols are set to tipoff at 1 p.m. EST in Bridgestone Arena in the SEC Tournament Championship game against Auburn and head coach Bruce Pearl. You can watch the game on ESPN.
UT is coming off a stunning comeback win against Kentucky in the semifinals. Auburn has knocked off Missouri, South Carolina and Florida on its way to its first SEC Title game since 2000. Tennessee is back in the championship contest for the second straight season. The only other time the Vols have done that was in the 1936 and 1937 seasons, when the team beat Alabama for its first ever tournament title before losing to Kentucky the following season.
The last time these two teams met was in Auburn at the end of the regular season. The Tigers knocked off Tennessee 84-80, handing the Vols its third conference loss of the season with the help of 13 treys. The loss to Auburn kept UT from winning a share of the SEC regular season title in back to back seasons.
"They kept us away from one," said senior Admiral Schofield after the Kentucky win, "and we have to go out with the mindset that they can't keep us away from another one."
After leading by as many as eleven against Auburn, Tennessee fell, in part, due to poor shot selection. UT attempted 28 threes for just the third time all season against the Tigers.
"Took a lot of threes during that Auburn game," said Lamonte Turner "was forcing a lot of stuff and I think a couple of us were."
Turner said after an open and honest film session, the team learned a lot about what needed to be corrected.
"I think going into this game, we're going to have a better idea of who we are. We're going to play to our strengths."
Of course, there's also the head coaching connection. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl led the Vols for six seasons, guiding the team to its first ever No. 1 ranking and trip to the Elite Eight.
- With the win against Kentucky, Tennessee improved to 29-4 this season, the second most wins in a single season for a UT team
- A win against Auburn would give Tennessee just its second 30 win season in program history
- Tennessee is 9-3 all time against Auburn in the SEC Tournament. The Vols have won the past two postseason meetings against the Tigers (2009,2016)
- Admiral Schofield is averaging 17.2 points per game in his past seven postseason games.
- A win on Sunday would move give Tennessee the third most SEC Tournament championships in conference history, breaking a tie with Florida.