DALLAS — Tennessee basketball was still riding a wave of momentum into Friday’s practice, but coach Rick Barnes knows it can change quickly.
“There’s three sets of crowds normally at he games,” said Barnes, who’s making his 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance with a fourth different school.
“They are their fans we have our fans,” Barnes said, “Most of the time the neutral crowds have always, when you think about it, they go for the underdog or the team that’s wearing the darker jersey.”
Tennessee, as the higher seed (No.3), will be wearing the home white uniforms while No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago will don its maroon and gold when the teams meet at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday.
The Vols never really gave Wright State the opportunity to get the neutral segment of the crowd going on Thursday.
Tennessee jumped out to an early lead and never trailed, up by double digits the entire second half en route to the 73-46 NCAA Tournament first-round victory over the Raiders.
Barnes admits, he wasn’t sure what to expect in the first round game
“We thought they would come out a bit jittery, which they did, we missed some shots there,” Barnes said, referencing the Vols’ 0-for-6 shooting start. “I did feel looking back on it, they were locked in defensively.
“We had actually told them coming out of the (SEC) tournament in St. Louis that we had only one really good game, where we skated 40 minutes the way we needed to.”
Can Tennessee follow up on Thursday’s strong performance against the Raiders?
“What team is going to show up here?” Barnes said. “I thought we were locked in on the defensive end, then we did get things going offensively.”
As for the crowd, it’s an 843-mile drive from Knoxville to Dallas, and many Vols’ fans are likely planning a trip to Atlanta should Tennessee win on Saturday.
Thursday’s crowd featured between 1,500 and 2,000 Tennessee fans, among them power boosters who have their names on campus buildings.
Loyola Chicago, the definition of a basketball school, also had an impressive amount of fans on hand.
Vols senior James Williams lll said Tennessee is prepared should the crown turn on Tennessee on Saturday.
“Coach told us that when you’re in these types of basketball games with these Cinderella teams, the whole stadium starts to root for an underdog,” Williams said. “You just want to come out and try to handle business early.”
Tennessee basketball from Dallas
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