The 15th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Tennessee Volunteers
Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on December 6, 2007
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Reason For Nickname: Tennessee is known worldwide as the “Volunteer State” (this all dating back to old war times).
Colors: Orange and White
Arena: Thompson-Boiling Arena (built 1987, capacity 24,535)
Good Ol’ Rocky Top: Tennessee has been, and will always be, known as a football school as well as a school with a strong women’s basketball program. For years, the men’s basketball program has had its share of great moments, but has been overshadowed by those two programs for much of its existence.
Conference Championships: In nearly a century of basketball, the Vols have been crowned regular-season champions in 1936, 1941, 1943, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 2000. They’ve also been SEC East champions in 1999, 2000, and 2006 as well as tournament champions in 1936, 1941, 1943, and 1979.
Postseason Appearances: Tennessee has been to 15 NCAA Tournaments in its basketball history, with appearances coming in 1967, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, and 2007. They’ve also been part of 11 NIT Tournaments, with appearances coming in 1945, 1969, 1971, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2003, and 2004. In total, Tennessee has 26 postseason appearances, second most in the state of Tennessee behind the University of Memphis and eight more than Vanderbilt.
Coaching Legacy: The emergence of Tennessee basketball as a power is credited to Ray Mears, who is the winningest coach in school history. One of the most colorful coaches in college basketball history, Mears led the Vols from 1963 to 1977 and is best known for coining the term “Big Orange Country” for Vol fans. Other coaching giants in school history would include Jerry Green, Buzz Peterson, and current coach Bruce Pearl, who has led the Vols to back-to-back tournament appearances in his first two years on Rocky Top.
Big Man On Campus: Tennessee’s most famous player is Bernard King, who made a name for himself during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Last season, the school decided to retire the former NBA star’s jersey, which now hangs among the rafters at Thompson-Boiling Arena with other Vol greats such as Ernie Grunfeld, Dale Ellis, and Allan Houston. Other greats in Vol history include Ron Slay, Tony Harris, and White Station graduate Dane Bradshaw, a guy who once convincingly beat a future sports columnist in a one-on-one game five years ago.
Rivalries: Tennessee’s rivals in basketball include the Memphis Tigers, Vanderbilt Commodores, and the Kentucky Wildcats. Of the three rivals, the Memphis-Tennessee is probably one of the most intense in-state rivalries in college basketball.
Did You Know?: Tennessee has won more games against Kentucky than any other SEC school in basketball.
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