Tennessee’s streak of having a men’s basketball schedule ranked in the top 20 looks to continue.
The Vols, whose schedule has ranked in the top 20 the past six seasons, will play host to Big East powerhouse Pittsburgh on Dec. 3 at Thompson-Boling Arena in the Big East/SEC Challenge.
“I think our guys will be ready for the challenges physically; it’s a matter of how quickly they pick up the things we want to do on the floor,’’ UT coach Cuonzo Martin said Thursday.
“Our returning guys want to prove some people wrong who think we won’t be competitive,’’ he said. “We lost some great players, but our guys continue to work to be champions.’’
It’s a good thing, because the Vols’ schedule already included home dates with defending national champion Connecticut as well as road trips to Conference USA tournament champion Memphis and Summit League champion Oakland (Mich.).
UT also will play in November against a Maui Invitational field full of championship programs, such as Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Michigan, Memphis and Georgetown.
The Pitt game — as well as the Oakland game — will follow soon after the trip to Hawaii.
“A lot could depend on how we come back from Maui,’’ Martin said. “But win or lose, we have to keep going, because we come back from (Maui) and have Pitt and Oakland.’’
The date of the Oakland game has yet to be announced.
Martin said he likes the Vols drawing Pitt because of the Panthers’ style of play.
“Pitt’s teams always play hard and they compete,’’ Martin said. “It will be another game for us to measure our progress and see what we have to work on.’’
UT beat then-No. 3 Pitt last season at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, 83-76, handing the Panthers their first non-conference loss in their home city in nearly six years.
The Big East/SEC Challenge has expanded to 12 games this season.
Other contests in the challenge this season:
n Dec. 1: Alabama hosts Georgetown, South Carolina hosts Providence, Kentucky hosts St. John’s and Ole Miss plays at DePaul.
n Dec. 2: Auburn plays at Seton Hall, Florida travels to Syracuse, Georgia hosts Cincinnati and Vanderbilt travels to Louisville.
n Dec. 3: Tennessee hosts Pitt, Mississippi State hosts West Virginia, LSU plays at Rutgers and Arkansas plays at UConn.
Game times and television networks will be announced in mid-August, though all games will be telecast nationally on the ESPN family of networks.
Through four seasons of the Big East/SEC Challenge, the conferences are deadlocked at 8-8. The Vols, however, are 2-0, having beat Marquette, 80-68, in 2009.
UT’s schedule ranked second in the nation last season and has ranked in the top six in five of the past six seasons.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mikegriffith32 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/
Big East/SEC Challenge (times and networks to be determined)
Thursday, Dec. 1
Georgetown at Alabama
Providence at South Carolina
St. John’s at Kentucky
Ole Miss at DePaul
Friday, Dec. 2
Auburn at Seton Hall
Florida at Syracuse
Cincinnati at Georgia
Vanderbilt at Louisville
Saturday, Dec. 3
Arkansas at Connecticut
West Virginia at Mississippi State
LSU at Rutgers
Pittsburgh at Tennessee