KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is prepping for the second half of the toughest two-game stretch of its conference schedule this season.
The Vols defeated Kentucky for the first time in a decade on Tuesday, winning 61-59 in Rupp Arena. They’ll follow up that victory with a trip Saturday to Tuscaloosa, a place that has historically given Tennessee issues.
The Vols have an 18-44 record on the road against Alabama. Tennessee does hold a 6-2 record in road games this season.
The Crimson Tide are anticipating a raucous atmosphere for the game (6 p.m., SEC Network). Coleman Coliseum should be sold out with a crowd of 15,383 cheering against the No. 15-ranked Vols.
Vols coach Rick Barnes said Friday that he expects to play against a team looking for a good win.
“When teams come in that are ranked, everyone is going to be on them,” Barnes said. “There’s a buzz about it and people are going to be on edge. This time of year, everyone is looking for big wins. Us going to Alabama would be a big win, too. Just as big as them beating us. This time of year, every win is a good win.”
Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) has won six games in a row and seems to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. The goal now is to enter the tournament with the best seed possible. A road win against the Crimson Tide would keep the Vols trending toward a top-3 seed in March.
Alabama is a good defensive team, ranked No. 15 in adjusted defense in the country, according to KenPom.com. On offense, it relies on freshman guard Collin Sexton, a likely top-10 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
“He’s got a great pace and feel for the game,” Barnes said. “He does a great job getting to the basket. He can raise up on you. Anytime you’ve got a guy who can do that and get to the basket it put pressures on you.
“They are long, athletic and a terrific ball-screen team. They do a lot through him and he’s a tough guy to guard.”