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TheOpenThread: Tennessee at #8 UConn

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Man, I missed this place. Greetings from the other side of the room here at the Nathan Hale Inn. Tip-off is roughly two hours away over in Hartford, and we'll be making our way there for pre- and postgame festivities in New England's Rising Star.

As for the game itself:

One look at Tennessee's schedule will tell you all you need to know about the Volunteers this season. This is a team that has gone into Pittsburgh and handled the presumptive-Big-East-favorite Panthers in December, as well as a team that dispatched Villanova on a neutral court in late November.

Since that Pitt win, though, Tennessee has only won five of 11 games; four of those wins came by six points or fewer (Belmont, Tennessee-Martin, Florida and Georgia), and sprinkled in that stretch are losses to teams like Oakland, College of Charleston, and a dreadful Charlotte team that will probably finish in the bottom third of the Atlantic-10.

The mercurial Vols have talent, no doubt about it. Scotty Hopson (16.4 ppg) hits 35 percent from 3's and can shoot the Vols in or out of a game; 6-8 freshman Tobias Harris is averaging 15 points per and will be a handful for UConn's forwards; 5-11 senior Melvin Goins has a reputation as one of the better on-ball defenders in the country, and you can be sure Tennessee's plan for victory involves sticking Goins on a certain National Player of the Year candidate.

Complicating matters is that UT will have coach Bruce Pearl back on the sidelines today, as his eight-game coaching ban applies only to SEC games. Playing a game on national TV, as an underdog, with their coach back, it might seem as if Tennessee has all the motivation they need to come in and play like they did against two other highly-ranked Big East foes.

As for UConn, we kind of know what to expect now. It's Kemba Walker doing amazing things, Alex Oriakhi rebounding like a champ, and one or two random freshman stepping up per night. (This will be my first chance to see Roscoe Smith live, and I kind of can't wait.) Playing at home, the Huskies should be favorites - though this is a rare occasion where Jim Calhoun might be outshouted by an opposing coach - but Tennessee is certainly capable of springing the upset.

It should be a good one, and we invite you to discuss the game here. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. and will be on CBS (with the smooth stylings of Ian Eagle and Bill Raftery); feel free to also discuss a pretty loaded Saturday slate of college basketball.

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