Cremins coming to town

A guy who participated in perhaps the greatest victory in Tennessee basketball history will be visiting Thompson-Boling Arena Friday ... as the opposing coach.

The College of Charleston team that visits Knoxville for a 2 p.m. tip-off is guided by Bobby Cremins. If that name sounds familiar to long-time Vol fans, there are two reasons why:

First, Cremins was the point guard on a South Carolina team that opened the 1969-70 season ranked No. 1 nationally. After hammering Auburn 88-66 on the road in Game 1, the Gamecocks eagerly awaited their home opener against a 24-point underdog Tennessee team that would be making its season debut.

With Rudy Kinard sidelined following knee surgery, Big Orange head man Ray Mears felt compelled to play his five starters 40 minutes each. The ploy worked, as the Vols posted a stunning 55-54 upset on Dec. 6, 1969.

The Gamecocks rallied from that setback to finish 25-3 and Cremins rallied, as well. He went on to become a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year at Georgia Tech between 1981 and 2000. He guided the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four in 1990, earning National Coach of the Year recognition from the Naismith Foundation in the process. His career record at Tech was 354-237.

After a six-year hiatus from coaching, he took the College of Charleston reins and promptly proved that he still has the magic. His Cougars went 22-11 in 2006-07, 16-17 in 2007-08, 27-9 in 2008-09 and 22-12 in 2009-10. This year's squad carries an 8-4 record.

"Bobby Cremins is one of the best in our business," said Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, whose team brings a 9-3 record into Friday's game. "To see Bobby Cremins with the white hair down at the other end should be a treat for our fans."

College of Charleston certainly qualifies as a worthy foe; the Cougars already have played competitively against some of the better teams in college basketball. They lost 75-74 at Maryland, 75-66 at Rhode Island, 74-69 at North Carolina and 66-59 at home vs. Clemson.

"This is a team that has pulled off some big upsets," Pearl said. "Last year they beat North Carolina. They could've/should've beaten Maryland, Clemson and North Carolina this year."

Charleston's best player is 6-2 senior guard Andrew Goudelock. He's averaging 23.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

"The guy for Charleston that's of great concern is Goudelock," Pearl said. "He's as good a scoring guard as we've seen this year. He takes twice as many shots as anybody on their team."

The Cougars' No. 2 scorer is Jeremy Simmons, a 6-8, 230-pound senior who was a teammate of Tennessee's Cameron Tatum at Tucker High of Lithonia, Ga. Simmons averages 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and was tabbed Southern Conference Player of the Week for a 26-point, 12-rebound effort at Charleston Southern on Dec. 15. He is shooting 62.6 percent from the field, ranking 11th nationally in that category.

College of Charleston's other top players are 6-3 senior Donavan Monroe (10.8 points per game), 6-6, 235-pound sophomore Willis Hall (7.2 points, 5.3 rebounds), 6-7, 185-pound junior Antwaine Wiggins (6.3 points, 5.6 rebounds) and 6-8, 240-pound freshman Trent Wiedeman (7.5 points, 6.9 rebounds). Wiggins played his high school ball in nearby Greeneville, Tenn.

With a quality coach like Bobby Cremins at the controls, the Cougars project to be a stern test for the Big Orange.

"They've beaten everybody they're supposed to beat and played Maryland very tough," Pearl said. "They played Clemson really tough, started the game on an 11-0 run. This is going to be a very good challenge for us."

The game will be televised by ESPN2.

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