Vols vs. Murray State
The UT Men's Basketball team celebrate after scoring on Murray Sate on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

No. 17 Tennessee travels to Niceville, Florida this weekend to play in the Emerald Coast Classic. The four-team tournament includes a pair of teams in the nation’s top 25 and two others that are receiving votes in the AP poll.

Tennessee will take on Florida State in its opening game and will play either No. 20 Virginia Commonwealth or Purdue.

Let’s take a look at the pool.

Florida State

This year’s Florida State team looks significantly different from the Seminole team that made it to last season’s Sweet 16. Gone are last season’s leading scorers Mfiondu Kabengele and Terrance Mann.

In typical Leonard Hamilton fashion, the Seminoles are playing at a much higher level than many thought with the losses of Mann and Kabengele.

Florida State is off to a 5-1 start including a win over Florida, 63-51. The Seminoles lone loss came in their season opener losing at Pittsburgh, 63-61.

The strong start has given Florida State the most votes of any team not in the AP poll and the Seminoles could be set to move in with a good weekend in Niceville.

The Seminoles use a balanced offense as Devin Vassell, Trent Forrest, M.J. Walker and Patrick Williams all average between 10 and 13 points. Florida State will likely be without Walker against Tennessee as the junior guard has been out with an injury.

Tip-off between the Seminoles and the Vols is set for 7 p.m. ET Friday night and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Purdue

We could be in for a rematch of last season’s legendary Sweet 16 matchup that saw the Boilermakers edge Tennessee in overtime.

A rematch would feature a lot of different faces than the one last March in Louisville.

Carson Edwards, who scored 29 points, and Ryan Cline, who scored 27 points, have left West Lafayette. 

Unlike Tennessee, the Boilermakers have struggled early in the season replacing their stars from last season’s team.

Purdue is off to a 3-2 start dropping a home game to Texas and losing by 10 at Marquette. The Boilermakers will come into Niceville riding a two-game winning streak due to wins over Chicago State and Jacksonville State.

Despite the losses of Cline and Edwards, Purdue has a pair of upperclassmen back from last year’s team leading the Boilermakers.

Jahaad Proctor leads the Boilermakers with 15.6 points per game while Matt Haarms is averaging 10 points per game while grabbing six rebounds per contest.

Virginia Commonwealth

VCU is off to a hot 5-0 start earning them a spot in the top 25 in Mike Rhoades third year as the Rams head coach.

The hot start includes an impressive 84-82 win over LSU in which the Rams edged out their former head coach Will Wade.

VCU plays an upbeat pace of play running up and down the court. The Rams play 10 plays over 12 minutes a game. Their style of play could present a problem for Tennessee whose depth has been a problem so far this season. In the Vols one true test this season they played just seven players in a win over Washington.

That was sustainable against the Huskies 2-3 zone but won’t be against the high-pressure Rams squad. 

Like Tennessee, VCU has a pair of senior guards helping lead the Rams offense. Marcus Evans averages 15.2 points and 3.2 assists per game while De’Riante Jenkins averages 10 points and three steals per game.

Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva leads the Rams with 10.5 rebounds per game while also totaling 11.5 points per contest. 

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