Tennessee (0-0) at Xavier (1-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 12, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cintas Center (10,250) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: FS1. Home Record: Tennessee 0-0, Xavier 1-0. Away Record: Tennessee 0-0, Xavier 0-0. Neutral Record: Tennessee 0-0, Xavier 0-0. Conference Record: Tennessee 0-0, Xavier 0-0. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 11-4.
GAME NOTES: The Tennessee Volunteers open their season on the road, as they challenge the Xavier Musketeers at Cintas Center on Tuesday night.
The Volunteers continued to show improvement in head coach Cuonzo Martin's second season, going 20-13 overall and 11-7 in the SEC, although after a quarterfinal-round loss to Alabama in the conference tournament (58-48), their NCAA Tournament bubble was burst and instead had to settle for an NIT appearance for the second straight season. The Vols are currently riding a 15- game win streak in season-opening games.
Xavier has made a name for itself as one of the top mid-major programs in the country, making the NCAA Tournament field every year from 2006-12, but last season it was on the outside looking in with an 17-14 overall record (9-7 Atlantic 10). The Musketeers, now a member of the new-look Big East, got the 2013-14 season started in a positive manner by claiming an easy 83-59 home win over Gardner-Webb last Friday.
Tennessee holds an 11-4 advantage over Xavier in the all-time series, which includes a 51-47 triumph last December for its fourth straight victory over the Musketeers.
Things are looking up for the Vols here in 2013-14, as the squad welcomes back its building blocks at both guard and forward. Jordan McRae (15.7 ppg) emerged as one of the SEC's most potent scorers down the stretch last season, and Jarnell Stokes (12.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg) is a bona fide stud big man, strong enough to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the paint. Also rejoining the fray is Jeronne Maymon, who averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as the team's MVP in 2011-12, only to miss all of last season with a knee injury. Fully recovered, Maymon was named to the Preseason All-SEC Second Team. Antonio Barton, a transfer from Memphis, is a 3-point specialist, and freshman Robert Hubbs III is a expected to see plenty of minutes in the backcourt.
The Musketeers started their season red-hot from the field, draining nearly 53 percent of their shots, but their point total could have been even higher had they not struggled from the free-throw line (22-of-40). Pacing four teammates in double figures was Semaj Christon with 14 points, and the Preseason First Team All-Big East selection is expected to shoulder much of the scoring load after netting 15.2 points per game last season as a freshman. Matt Stainbrook notched a double-double consisting of 13 points and 12 rebounds in just 21 minutes of work, while James Farr (10 points, nine rebounds) narrowly missed one coming off the bench. Brandon Randolph put up 14 points and handed out seven assists, compared to only one turnover. Justin Martin, a solid contributor in the frontcourt last season (7.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg), struggled in the opener by shooting just 2-of-8 from the floor.
Despite Xavier's relative struggles a season ago, it still defended its home floor very well by going 11-4. And while it will certainly give Tennessee all it has in this one, the Vols have a decisive advantage at forward with Stokes and Maymon.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 73, Xavier 69
11/12 10:34:50 ET