The 2012-13 Tennessee basketball schedule has been finalized, and as usual the Vols will play their fair share of exciting matchups.
Cuonzo Martin as arranged an enticing non-conference schedule to complement this year's SEC slate, which includes conference newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri. The schedule gives Tennessee a strong opportunity to announce itself as a perennial SEC contender once again.
The Volunteers' 10 key games are below.
1. Puerto Rico Tip-Off, November 15-18
While the Puerto Rico Tip-off does not have the strongest tournament field, opportunities for marquee matchups do exist. The Vols will likely face Oklahoma State in the tournament's second round, and a potential showdown with top-ten team North Carolina State awaits in the tournament finals. This tournament will provide Tennessee with a good early-season test.
2. Tennessee at Georgetown, November 30
This matchup against the Hoyas in the SEC-Big East Challenge begins a difficult three-game stretch for Tennessee (the next two games on this list make up the rest of that stretch). They will be facing a young team, but Georgetown remains a top-notch program and this road game will test the Vols' mettle.
3. Tennessee at Virginia, December 5
While Virginia doesn't have the pedigree of a Georgetown, they are likely to provide the Vols with a similar test in a tough defensive game. Tennessee will have to find a way to guard Cavalier sharpshooter Mike Scott.
4. Tennessee v. Wichita State, December 13
Tennessee has never shied away from playing quality mid-majors, and this matchup against the Shockers should be a fun one. The defending Missouri Valley champs are a force to be reckoned with, and they will not be afraid of a game in Knoxville.
5. Tennessee v. Memphis, January 4
The Vols get one more crack at Memphis in what could be the last game of this epic rivalry for a while. Josh Pastner has chosen not to continue scheduling the annual game between the two teams, so the significance of this particular battle only increases. It doesn't hurt that this game will be Tennessee's last chance to improve its resume prior to conference play.
6. Tennessee at Kentucky, January 13
The Vols will feel the ramifications of the new SEC schedule immediately, as Kentucky is the only SEC East opponent they will face in their first six league games. Tennessee has an opportunity to get off to a strong start in conference play, and if a date in Lexington weren't already must-see TV, a strong Volunteer showing would be a great sign for the team.
7. Tennessee at Arkansas, February 2
The first half of Tennessee's SEC schedule doesn't feature many marquee games, but this matchup with Arkansas could be tricky. Conference road games are already difficult, and the young Razorbacks are projected to finish at the upper end of the SEC this year.
8. Tennessee at Vanderbilt, February 13
The departure of several team leaders makes this season a down year for Vanderbilt, but this game will never be easy. If Vandy is in fact rebuilding, this game may end up being the biggest of their season. The Vols host Kentucky three days before this game, so it will be important to keep up their energy level and not take their rivals for granted.
9. Tennessee v. Florida, February 26
Due to the new unbalanced schedule, Tennessee only faces the Gators once this year. This young Florida team will be competitive in the SEC, and the Vols will not want to lose at home without a shot at redemption on the road.
10. Tennessee v. Missouri, March 9
The Vols close out their regular season against conference newcomer Missouri, a team that is expected to have an immediate impact on the league race. This game may have a significant impact on conference standings and NCAA Tournament seeding, and it is always exciting to see Tennessee start a new series with a quality opponent.