Tennessee vs UT Chattanooga basketball preview

Tennessee basketball tips off its regular season tonight. An early season in-state battle will provide both teams a picture of how good they are to start the year.

KNOXVILLE,TN - OCTOBER 05, 2016 - Guard Jordan Bone #0 of the Tennessee Volunteers during Men's Basketball practice at Pratt Pavilion in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee officially tips off its season tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena with an in-state matchup against Chattanooga. This will be the 39th time that the Vols and Mocs have met on the hardwood, with Tennessee holding a 33-5 series advantage. The last meeting came back in 2012 when the Vols defeated Chattanooga 76-63.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes will have much more depth on his second team at Tennessee than he did on his first one. That depth however will be young, with eight freshmen on the roster. Former five-star recruit Robert Hubbs III (10.6 points per game last season) will be expected to lead this team during his senior season. Other key experienced players on the roster will be graduate transfer Lew Evans, junior guard Detrick Mostella (8.4 ppg) and sophomore forward Admiral Schofield (7.6 ppg). Tennessee finished last season at 15-19 (6-12 SEC), which put them at 12th in the conference. The Vols are predicted to finish 13th this season.

Chattanooga brings back much more experience to its roster than their neighbors to the north do. The Mocs finished last season with a 29-6 record after first year coach Matt McCall took over for Will Wade, who left for VCU. The young coach guided them to a Southern Conference regular season and tournament title. The Mocs grabbed a No. 12 seed in the Big Dance, but lost to Indiana in their first game. Chattanooga returns all three of its top scorers in Tre McLean (12.1 ppg), Justin Tuoyo (11.1 ppg) and Greg Pryor (9.8 ppg). Casey Jones, who was last year’s preseason pick for the South Conference player of the year, also returns for the Mocs after suffering a season-ending injury after just eight games.

Rebounding will be key for Tennessee in this game. Rick Barnes wants his teams to get out on the fast break, and in order to do that, the rebound has to be secured first. Tennessee only averaged 25.4 defensive rebounds a game last season, which was good for 165th in the country. The Vols will need to be better against the Mocs on Friday in order to secure a victory against the defending Southern Conference champions. For both teams, this is one of the toughest games on their respective non-conference schedules, and both teams will be looking for bragging rights in this in-state matchup.

Tennessee and Chattanooga tip off at 7 p.m. ET at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics