The Big Orange limited 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson to 9 points and 5 rebounds in the 1981 East Region semifinals but still came out on the short end of a 62-48 score. Sampson redeemed himself a year later, producing 19 points and 9 rebounds as the Cavaliers nipped the Vols 54-51 in Round 2 East Region play.
There is one omen that bodes well for Tennessee, however. The last time the Vols advanced past Round 2, March of 2000, their Sweet 16 game was played in Austin, Texas. If they beat Virginia on Sunday, they will advance to Sweet 16 play in San Antonio, Texas. The opponent will be the winner of today's game between Ohio State and Xavier.
Tennessee, seeded fifth in the South Region this year, moved to 23-10 Saturday by drubbing Long Beach State 121-86. Virginia, seeded fourth in the region, moved to 21-10 by hammering Albany 84-57.
Both the Vols and the Cavaliers rely heavily on backcourt scoring. Tennessee got 71 points from its perimeter trio of Chris Lofton (25), JaJuan Smith (24) and Ramar Smith (22) on Saturday, while Virginia got a combined 51 points from guards J.R. Reynolds (28) and Sean Singletary (23).
Reynolds entered NCAA Tournament play in a terrible slump, having posted consecutive shooting performances of 3-of-15, 3-of-14 and 3-of-15. He snapped out of it against Albany, though, hitting 9 of 13 shots, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Singletary, UVA's point guard, hit 9 of 15 shots, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range. He also contributed 9 assists.
The similarities between the Vols and the Cavaliers go beyond backcourt scoring, however.
Tennessee outrebounded Long Beach by 15 (41-26); Virginia outrebounded Albany by 15 (37-22).
Tennessee committed just six turnovers on Saturday; Virginia committed just eight.
Tennessee shot 58.9 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from 3 against Long Beach; Virginia shot 53.6 percent from the field and 52.9 from 3 against Albany.
Tennessee has qualified for just seven of the past 24 NCAA Tournaments, going 5-6 during that time. Virginia is participating for the first time since 1995.