UT Hoops Opens Season Amidst Unprecedented Expectations

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- The pigskin is still flying at the corner of Phillip Fulmer Way and Tee Martin Drive, but don't be fooled: the leaves are changing, signaling the start of basketball season -- a 2007-8 campaign which looks as promising as any in the history of Tennessee hoops.

Bruce Pearl's Vols are set to renew their hardwood heroics, starting Friday at the newly renovated Thompson-Boling Arena with an exhibition game against California (PA), a Division II school located south of Pittsburgh.

The offseason has been a turbulent one for the Vol hoopsters. In addition to the renovation of Thompson-Boling Arena and construction of the Pratt Practice Pavilion, several Vols have missed practice time, for both health and personal reasons.

Sophomore forward Duke Crews was suspended from the team in September for violating team rules. He was reinstated Monday. Sophomore guard Josh Tabb broke a bone near his eye socket in practice and missed a couple weeks of preseason preparation. Sophomore guard Ramar Smith wrecked center Wayne Chism's car after he borrowed it without Chism's permission.

And Tuesday, Chism was knocked unconscious in practice and sent to the emergency room with a head injury. He was released from the hospital that same night.

The Vols hope to rebound from the topsy-turvy offseason amidst the highest expectations in program history. The team is ranked seventh in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, which is believed to be the highest preseason ranking in team history.

Friday's exhibition tips off at 7:30 pm. Here are some notes regarding the game:

Tickets are available to both exhibition games for $5 each. Tickets may be purchased by calling the UT Ticket Office at 865-656-1200 or online at UTSports.com.

Gates to Thompson-Boling Arena will open 90 minutes prior to tip off.

All of the seating in Thompson-Boling will be reserved and there will not be any general admission sections other than the student section. This is different from past seasons where all seating at the exhibition games was general admission.

A parking permit will be required for on-campus parking for the exhibition games. Free parking will be available on the Ag Campus.

Shuttles will run from the Ag Campus and from Lot 14 (the soccer stadium area at the intersection of Neyland Drive and Leinard Lane). The shuttles begin running two hours prior to tip off and run post-game. The buses will drop off and pickup directly across from Thompson-Boling Arena.

RV staging for Saturday’s football game has been moved from Stephenson Drive to Metron on Friday night.

(Ticket and parking information courtesy UT Sports Information)

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