Men's Basketball vs. Presbyterian

Tennessee's Uros Plavsic (33) cheers for his teammate Zakai Zeigler (5) during their game against Presbyterian in Thomspon-Boling Arena on Nov. 30, 2021.

Tennessee basketball travels to New York Tuesday to match up against its toughest defensive challenge of the young season – Texas Tech.

Tennessee’s trip to the Big Apple for the Jimmy V Classic puts the Vols at the historic Madison Square Garden. The Garden is known as one of the most electric atmospheres to watch or play the sport of basketball for the better part of the last 50 years.

“The one thing I've learned after leaving George Mason and going up into New England, is just how big basketball is in the northeastern part of the country,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “People love it up there. I think it'll be really a great thrill for our guys to walk into Madison Square Garden, as we know it's the mecca of college basketball.”

In this instance, the foe is just as intimidating as the venue. Mark Adams has followed through as a disciple of former head coach Chris Beard, keeping many of the same systems in place as a first-year head coach after being a Red Raiders assistant since 2016.

Texas Tech runs a "No-Middle" defense, the same system that propelled Baylor to a national title last season. The defense prioritizes forcing ball handlers to the baseline, taking away the middle of the court and forcing a lot of turnovers and bad situations for those driving to the basket.

The No-Middle defense values early help down low, forcing tough passes to the post and emphasizing cross-court passes as the guard is often double teamed.

Naturally, this defense has its weaknesses. The Red Raiders are among the worst in the nation at defending from deep, allowing opponents to shoot nearly 36% from three-point range through seven games this season.

Texas Tech also struggled to dominate offensive boards in their last matchup against Providence, allowing 17 that turned into an eventual 72-68 win to hand the Red Raiders their first loss of the season. Texas Tech enters Tennessee’s contest as the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country.

“We're going to play a team in Texas Tech who's finding their way,” Barnes said. “I watched them play last night and they had a great game against Providence College."

Important for Tennessee Tuesday night is drowning out the noise. Texas Tech may serve as the Vols’ toughest defensive test of the entire season, especially worrisome for a young team led by a freshman point guard.

Of course, Chandler may also be the best player on the floor Tuesday night. The former five-star recruit dropped a career-high 27 points on Colorado in Boulder to aid in downing the Buffaloes, 69-54.

Barnes has some history against Texas Tech, facing the Red Raiders 37 times as head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Barnes’ 33 wins over the Red Raiders are his most against any one opponent in his career as a head coach.

Barnes looks to make it 34 Tuesday night at 7 p.m. EST at Madison Square Garden.

“For our players, if they don't know what it means to play in the Garden,” Barnes said. “I think that once they get up there and start thinking and talking about the history of it, they'll realize it's something that they should hold special."

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