Here's to the good old days. You know, Thanksgiving in Orlando.
Gonzaga and Tennessee are singing the same tune Wednesday when they renew their rivalry in a 9 p.m. tip-off (TV: EPSN2) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
And they can compare fresh scars obtained since they last met on Nov. 30 in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic.
That 83-74 Gonzaga win spoiled Tennessee's unbeaten start. The 15th-ranked Vols (9-3) have since lost at Temple and Kansas and neither game was close.
The Bulldogs (8-4) climbed as high as No. 4 after leaving Orlando, but have lost three of their past four games and plummeted out of the rankings.
So, Tennessee and Gonzaga meet again five weeks later, worse for the wear.
"We're a little bit (better),'' said UT coach Bruce Pearl. "We should be a lot better and we're not a lot better.''
Gonzaga's Mark Few isn't even that cheery.
"We're knocked back a little bit mentally, our confidence,'' Few said.
"You can't pick an aspect of where we're at that doesn't need improvement.''
When last they met, both were on top of their early season game.
The Vols had just dispatched Siena and Georgetown to get to the Old Spice finals. Gonzaga beat Oklahoma State and Maryland, then took UT out in the title game.
"I thought we had a good mentality with how we attacked their pressure,'' said Few. "For the most part, we defended the right way.
"That's slipped, quite frankly, in the last couple of games.''
Tennessee's defense has definitely regressed.
The Vols have struggled against a series of quality point guards and that includes Gonzaga senior Jeremy Pargo.
"If I were to hear criticism about our basketball team,'' said Pearl, "most of it is true and accurate.
"But we've talked about defensive struggles from the very beginning. While I'm very disappointed, I'm not surprised.''
The players have been hearing the criticism, too.
"We're tired of hearing the stereotypes about us,'' said freshman Cameron Tatum. "We've got to go out there and prove them wrong.
"We've got to play Tennessee basketball, and that's toughness and playing hard all the time.''
Added junior Tyler Smith, "It's not like we don't want to get better or we're not trying.''
The Vols gave Gonzaga a dose of toughness and hard-playing last season in Seattle, winning 82-72.
In Orlando, however, the Bulldogs exacted their revenge, leading by as many as 17 points in the second half.
Tonight, the rubber game of the series finally lands on a home court.
The Vols have a 37-game TBA winning streak on the line.
"We're going to face a different entity than Seattle and Orlando,'' said Few. "They're probably going to play at another level in all aspects of their game.''
One aspect would be defending. Another Pearl would like to see upgraded is getting off to slow starts. The latest episode was falling behind 25-9 at Kansas.
Expect Pearl to make sure that Smith and Wayne Chism get plenty of offensive looks early.
"It's just something us veterans have got to do,'' said Smith. "When we're being leaders we've got to want the ball, not just sit back and let it come to us.''
Notebook: The officials will be from the West Coast. SEC officials worked last year's game in Seattle. ... Senior forward Ryan Childress is getting closer to playing shape, judging from practice this week. ... Brad Nessler and Jay Bilas have the ESPN2 telecast. ... Two of Gonzaga's losses were last-second affairs, in overtime to No. 2 Connecticut and 66-65 at Utah. ... The Vols will beware 6-5 sophomore reserve Steven Gray. He burned them for 19 points in Orlando. ... Both Pearl and Few claim to play the strongest non-conference schedule in the nation. According to collegerpi.com, that distinction goes to Temple. Gonzaga's schedule is ranked No. 8 and Tennessee's No. 24.