"Obviously this is a great field, and the quality of our regional opponents is outstanding," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Belmont was one win away from a 20-win season last year and they always play us tough. Missouri State is coming off a 24-win season, and Arkansas State is coached by John Brady, who led LSU to the Final Four just a few years ago. There are just outstanding coaches at all three institutions, and we'll have to beat two good teams to advance to New York."
The East Regional will be hosted by Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons will face Hampton in the first round. Also playing in Winston-Salem is VCU and Winthrop.
"This Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off set high standards early on and has consistently showcased the best in college basketball," Newton said. "This year's field can certainly hold its own against any of the previous 25 we've had. Half of the field is coming off 20-plus win seasons and several fell just below that mark. We look forward to a competitive tournament."
The regional games will be played Nov. 15- 17; the consolation bracket takes place Nov. 22-23 at sites to be determined, and the championship round comes to New York City's Madison Square Garden for the semifinal contests Nov. 24 and the consolation and championship games Nov. 26. The NIT Season Tip-Off assures every participating team four games.
The winners of each regional site will move onto New York City. The remaining 12 teams will play third- and fourth-round games on the home campus sites of the three highest remaining seeds. Participating teams will not play any team twice, and the third and fourth rounds will be assigned to the most geographically compatible site possible.
ESPN will provide coverage throughout the event, televising games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Games on ESPN and ESPN2 will be simulcast on ESPN3.com (formerly ESPN360.com).
This marks Tennessee's third appearance in the NIT Season Tip-Off, as the Volunteers—led by future NBA and Olympic star Allan Houston—advanced to the second round in 1992. Then in Bruce Pearl's second season on Rocky Top, UT advanced to Madison Square Garden and claimed a fourth-place finish in the 2006 tournament.
Tennessee owns a 3-3 all-time record in the event.