Vols host UConn

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UConn has a lot going for it heading into today's 4:05 tipoff against Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Huskies are 14-4 and ranked No. 13 nationally.

They are defending national champions.

They boast one of the NCAA's premier guard tandems in 6-foot-5 Jeremy Lamb (17.7 points per game) and 6-foot-1 Shabazz Napier (14.6 points, 6.3 assists per game).

They are coached by legendary Jim Calhoun, who has accumulated 619 wins and three national titles in his 25-plus seasons as head man.

They are highly motivated, coming off a 70-67 home-court loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday night.

Conversely, the Vols, 8-10 and unranked, have just one thing going for them today ... historical precedent.

The Big Orange has won six of its past eight games against defending national champs, including the last three contests played at Thompson-Boling Arena. One of those six wins came at the expense of Calhoun's Huskies, who were coming off a 1999 national title when they played the Vols in the 2000 NCAA South Regional at Birmingham.

Here's a recap:

Jan. 12, 1999: Tennessee 47, Kentucky 46 (Lexington)

Feb. 28, 1999: Tennessee 68, Kentucky 61 (Knoxville)

March 19, 2000: Tennessee 65, UConn 61 (Birmingham)

Feb. 3, 2007: Florida 94, Tennessee 78 (Gainesville)

Feb. 27, 2007: Tennessee 86, Florida 76 (Knoxville)

Feb. 5, 2008: Tennessee 104, Florida 82 (Knoxville)

March 5, 2008: Tennessee 89, Florida 86 (Gainesville)

Jan. 3, 2009: Kansas 92, Tennessee 85 (Lawrence)

The Vols may have one other factor in their favor heading into today's game: They tend to play up or down to the level of the competition. Their three best performances of the season arguably came against No. 13 Florida (67-56 home win), No. 20 Mississippi State (58-62 road loss) and No. 2 Kentucky (62-65 home loss). Conversely, their two worst performances of the season arguably came against a 1-9 Austin Peay team (70-74 home loss) and a Georgia team that came in 0-3 in SEC play (53-57 road loss).

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said this week he feels the same sense of urgency regardless of the opponent, noting: "I've always approached 'em like it was the last game we would ever play, and I wanted to do everything in my power to win the game."

His Vols do not share that approach, based on historical precedent, and historical precedent may be all Tennessee has in its favor today.

NOTES: This is Tennessee's "We Back Pat" game with fans urged to wear "We Back Pat" T-shirts in support of Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt's battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.... Oddly enough, both the Vols and Huskies are averaging 71.7 points per game. UConn has scored 1,291 points in 18 games, UT 1,290.... UConn ranks fourth nationally with an average of 7.2 blocked shots per game.... The Huskies beat Bruce Pearl and the Vols 72-61 last season in Hartford.... In addition to Lamb and Napier, UConn's starting lineup today projects to be 6-foot-10, 270-pound Andre Drummond (9.9 points per game), 6-foot-9, 240-pound Alex Oriakhi (6.7 ppg) and 6-foot-8, 195-pound DeAndre Daniels (4.2 ppg). Drummond leads the team in rebounding at 7.6 per game.... Huskies redshirt freshman Michael Bradley was a McDonald's All-America nominee as a senior in 2010 at Chattanooga's Tyner Academy.... Today's game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports.

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