Vols in SEC/Big East Invitational

Vols in SEC/Big East Invitational

The Tennessee basketball team will play in the fourth annual DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational, which takes place Dec. 8 and 11 in Louisville and Pittsburgh, ESPN Regional Television announced Wednesday.

The Volunteers will face Pittsburgh on Saturday, Dec. 11, at the brand new CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Tickets for the 2010 DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational are expected to go on sale in early fall. Fans who would like to receive notification when tickets are available can visit the event's official Web site: secbigeastinvitational.com.

"Pitt is a top-notch program that is extremely well coached under Jamie Dixon," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said. "They are ranked as high as sixth in some of the early preseason projections. They won 25 games last year and return their top three scorers.

"The SEC approached us with this matchup knowing there was no return game due to the format of the challenge. Hopefully we'll have a good turnout in Pittsburgh, because it will be a challenging environment and a good test for us early on."

Tennessee has won three of the four previous meetings with Pittsburgh. The teams have not played since Dec. 6, 1998, in Knoxville. The Vols won that game, 56-53.

The Vols defeated Marquette in Nashville, Tenn., in UT's only previous SEC/BIG EAST Invitational appearance in 2008. Tennessee is 4-1 against Big East opposition during the Pearl era.

The two-night DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational begins with a doubleheader Wednesday, Dec. 8, at Freedom Hall in Louisville, featuring Arkansas vs. Seton Hall at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2, followed by Kentucky vs. Notre Dame at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Rutgers will take on Auburn on ESPN2 prior to the Tennessee-Pittsburgh matchup on Dec. 11. Game times for the Pittsburgh site will be announced at a later date.

Three of the SEC teams – Tennessee, Auburn and Kentucky – will play in the event for the second time, while Arkansas and all four BIG EAST teams are making their first SEC/BIG EAST Invitational appearances.

The matchup of Kentucky and Notre Dame revisits a long tradition at Freedom Hall in Louisville. The teams have met 32 times at the historic venue, the first game being played in January 1937. The rivalry was held in Louisville every season from 1962-63 to 1987-88. Kentucky has a 23-9 advantage in games played at Freedom Hall, most recently a 78-69 win Jan. 31, 1988.

In the overall series, Kentucky holds a 41-18 edge on Notre Dame. The Irish won the most recent meeting, a 77-67 decision in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on March 25, 2009, in South Bend, Ind. Arkansas will be facing Seton Hall for the first time.

Auburn has won four of five all-time games against Rutgers, most recently an 82-70 victory Dec. 8, 2002, at Auburn.

Five of the eight participating teams reached the postseason in 2009-10, with Tennessee and Kentucky advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight. Pittsburgh and Notre Dame also played in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, while Seton Hall played in the NIT.

Teams invited to participate in the DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational are chosen by ESPN in consultation with the conferences and are based on geographic and competitive criteria.

The BIG EAST holds a 7-5 record in the first three years of the event. The two conferences have combined to produce four of the last eight NCAA Men's National Champions (Florida - 2007 and 2006; Connecticut - 2004; Syracuse - 2003) and seven of the last 15 national champions (Connecticut - 1999; Kentucky - 1998 and 1996).

Tennessee's complete 2010-11 schedule will not be released until this fall.

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