Thursday's third game in the 2011 SEC Basketball Tournament (complete bracket right here) will match-up Tennessee and Arkansas. The Volunteers are the No 5 seed from the Eastern Division while Arkansas is the No 4 seed from the west. The Vols finished the season 18-13, 8-8 in conference play. The Razorbacks were 18-12, 7-9 in SEC play. The game kicks off the evening session at the Dome and is scheduled to tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
It in interesting that both of these teams match-up with each other in the first round of the tournament given the scrutiny that both of the team's head coaches have been under this season. Arkansas coach John Pelphrey recently had to defend his program against claims made in a recent local newspaper ad. That may seem minor when you consider that Tennessee was without its head coach Bruce Pearl for eight games after being suspended by the SEC for apparently misleading NCAA investigators when questioned about recruiting violations.
In an up and down season, the Vols have been more down of late. They lost their final two home games to Mississippi State and Kentucky. They did pull out a hard-fought 73-69 victory over South Carolina before the Kentucky loss but are just 3-6 in their last nine games. Tennessee is however very talented. Talented enough to defeat teams like Memphis, Villanova, and No. 3 Pitt. The problem is they are also inconsistent enough to lose to teams like Oakland, Charlotte, and College of Charleston. Scotty Hopson leads the way for the Vols averaging 17.7 points per game.
The Razorbacks lost their last two games of the season to Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Like the Vols, they experienced some tough losses but found a way to beat both Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Arkansas is led by junior guard Rotnei Clarke who is averaging 15.1 points per contest.
The winner of this match-up will advance to take on No. 1 overall seed Florida on Friday.