Written by College Basketball Expert Analyst Greg Nelson.
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Sixty-four-year-old Rick Barnes still has a youthful look after successful stints at Providence, Clemson, Texas and now he’s taken the University of Tennessee basketball program to new heights. Hickory, North Carolina native, has the Volunteers on top in College Basketball for the first time since February of 2008 in the Tobias Harris era.
Fans in the football-crazed state are now enthusiastic about showing up at Thompson–Boling Arena to root on a team that lost to Kentucky in the 2018 SEC Conference tournament. However, they still received a March Madness invitation as the number-three seed in the South Region but were outed in the second round by the cinderella Loyola Chicago Ramblers. Barnes says the players deserve all the credit for the turnaround, but it’s not the first times he’s turned around a College Basketball program.
Rick Barnes notoriety began in 1989-90 when he led Providence to consecutive March Madness appearances led by 2,000 point scorer Eric Murdock. After a few mediocre years of NIT invitations, they got back to the Big Dance in 1994 also leading the Friars to their first Big East Conference Championship the same season. In four years at Clemson Barnes became the first coach in school history to take the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament three consecutive years and in his tenure, they were ranked as high as number two in the country.
Barnes then took over for Tom Penders at the University of Texas from 1998–2015 which was his longest tenure and began to attract five-star recruits to Austin. Kevin Durant, Tristan Thompson, Avery Bradley, D. J. Augustin, and Cory Joseph to name a few who have gone of to have stellar NBA careers.
The 2002-03 team made it to the Final Four, a direction which is where his current Tennessee team is heading. Barnes not only know the coaching aspect but has an incredible way to lure players to his program, whatever the situation and the University of Tennessee could only find a football coach to have the same ability all would be great in Knoxville.
Tennessee has just one loss on their resume’ and 87-81 loss to Kansas which was in overtime back on November 23, 2018. The Volunteers have 9-6-1 record ATS going OVER the total nine times while staying UNDER seven with a push. Six top scorers for the team that lost in the second round to Loyola/Chicago return which brings a bevy of experience to the current roster. Junior forward Grant Williams 18.9 points per game is the Volunteers leading scorer with guard Admiral Schofield (17.4) ppg is second.
The only other time Tennessee was ranked in the top spot, they lost the next game which was to Vanderbilt, and that’s who they play Wednesday. January 23, 2019. Tennessee still has two SEC Conference games against the mighty Kentucky Wildcats.
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