Rick Barnes is returning to where he spent 17 years as a head coach, but this time he will do it patrolling the sidelines for Tennessee basketball. The Vols travel to Austin on Saturday to take on the Texas Longhorns in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
From 1998 to 2015, Barnes served as head coach at Texas. He won three Big 12 championships, reached the NCAA Tournament 16 of 17 times, and reached five Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights and a Final Four in 2003. However, he was fired in 2015, when the Vols have hired.
Texas is on its second head coach since Barnes was fired. They are led by first-year head coach Chris Beard, who replaces Shaka Smart. Beard is here after five years with the Texas Tech Red Raiders which included a Big 12 title and an appearance in a national championship game in 2019. Here’s all the info you need for the Tennessee basketball game.
Tennessee Basketball Volunteers
Texas Longhorns Basketball
Saturday January 29
8 p.m. ET
Frank Erwin Center
- Line: Texas-3.5
- More less : 126.5
- Money line: Texas-170; Tennessee +145
Rocky Top enters this battle ranked No. 18 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the Coaches poll when he was on a three-game winning streak. They recently picked up a nasty win to beat the Florida Gators 78-71 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Texas comes in three spots out of the top 25 in the AP poll and 25th in the coaches poll. However, they are on a two-game winning streak and are coming off a solid 73-50 road win over the TCU Horned Frogs.
Despite the win, the Longhorns have struggled against elite teams this year. Six of Beard’s 10 rotational players, including three of his five starters, are transfers. To be fair, the other four players are all returning starters, so there is some experience, but getting these guys to gel has been a bit of a hassle at times.
Smart left Texas after a six-year run that included just three NCAA Tournament appearances and an NIT championship. Last year, he led the Longhorns to the Big 12 Tournament championship, but has since taken on the head coaching job with the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Although this is an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game, Tennessee basketball and the Longhorns will eventually face each other in conference games each year, with Texas and the Oklahoma Sooners expected to join the SEC by 2025. Assuming Barnes is still on Rocky Top, that means he’ll have to deal with his old schedule every year.
After that game, the Vols resume SEC play on Tuesday, Feb. 1 against the Texas A&M Aggies. This will play SEC games the rest of the way. Texas, meanwhile, is chasing a tough streak of five consecutive top-25 games, starting with this one, then against Beard’s former team Texas Tech on Tuesday, the Iowa State Cyclones next Saturday and finally Kansas. Jayhawks and Baylor Bears the following week.
Wednesday was not a great race for Rocky Top. They committed way too many unforced turnovers and allowed Florida to score 17 points on them, giving them an early lead. Texas is almost as good as Florida at generating steals, they’re playing that game at home and they’re in perfect health. Oh, and they start rolling.
That combined with the sense of urgency Texas has given to what’s to come is why they’re likely to beat Tennessee basketball. In fact, take Texas-3.5 on the spread. Their forced turnovers combined with the Vols shooting in the second half to try to make a comeback will make this match also hit the More than 126.5. The score will look like this: Texas 71Tennessee 65.