Tennessee basketball remained 22nd in the Associated Press’s top 25 updated Monday. Last week, the Vols fell 11 spots from 11th to 22nd after losing 78-66 to Colorado at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
On Wednesday, Tennessee bounced back (2-1) with an 81-50 win over the Florida Gulf Coast at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols, who travel to the Bahamas on Monday, are scheduled to face Butler in Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday at around 7:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
The eight-team Atlantis tournament guarantees three games in three days for each team. On Thursday, the winners and losers of the Tennessee-Butler and Southern Cal-BYU games will go head-to-head. Losers play at 1:30pm ET and winners play at 6:30pm ET.
On the other side of the bracket are Kansas and North Carolina State (noon ET, Wednesday, ESPN) and Dayton and Wisconsin (2:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, ESPN2). Southern Cal and BYU play Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET, with Tennessee and Butler serving as the last game on Wednesday night.
The championship game of the tournament is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Next up: Tennessee vs. Butler, Battle 4 Bahamas, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Butler (3-1) lost 68-62 at Penn State last week. The Bulldogs have home wins against New Orleans, Saint Francis and The Citadel.
KenPom.com ranks Butler 86th overall, while he ranks 96th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 88th in defensive efficiency.
“They’re a good team,” Tennessee assistant head coach Justin Gainey said last week. “They have some really good guards that are aggressive, they’re downhill, they’re in attack mode, they’re older, so they’ve walked through fire. You’ve seen a few transfers. They’ve got the (Manny) Bates boy in there, which is a liability. He’s 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11. He was — I’d like to say — the top five NC states in blocks before he left, and he was only there two years. It’s a big rim protector with touch around the basket.
“Then they have the stretch-four kid shooting the three really aggressively,” Gainey added. “Essentially four guards playing around a big one and playing at a good pace. It’s a good basketball team and I feel like they have an identity for who they are and everyone bought that role.”
Vols ranked #4 in Adjusted Defense Efficiency according to KenPom.com
Tennessee is #7 overall in the KenPom ratings. The Vols are No. 22 in offense efficiency and No. 4 in defensive efficiency.
On the defensive end, Gainey said, this team’s identity is based out of Tennessee.
“I think at the end of the day,” Gainey said ahead of Friday’s practice at the Pratt Pavilion, “and every game we’ve been in we’ve been defending. We are a team full of defenders. This is us. We will guard. I don’t think we’ve ever lost sight of that.”
In the November 13 loss to Colorado, Tennessee let Colorado shoot 53.6 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from the 3-point line as the Buffaloes outplayed the Vols by 14 points en route to victory.
“I think we had a couple of possessions where we might have hung our heads or worried about what happened on the other end,” Gainey said. “Our identity today is a stubborn defense unit and a selfless group.”