The bracket was released today for the 2014 Orlando Classic (formerly the Old Spice Classic), and it's a pretty fair shake for Donnie Tyndall's Vols. Tennessee will face Santa Clara in the tournament's opening game at noon on Thanksgiving Day. The Vols are on the same side of the bracket as Kansas, who will face Rhode Island in their opening matchup.
If you're going to play in these things, you might as well see as many of the heavy hitters as possible. I was worried about Tennessee getting Marquette or Georgia Tech in the first round, where a loss might remove the possibility of facing Kansas or Michigan State at all. Instead the Vols get a 12-19 foe from the West Coast Conference; given the turnover and attrition in Knoxville there is no such thing as a guaranteed win on Tennessee's entire schedule, but Santa Clara does represent a lesser challenge and an easier path to a bigger opportunity against the Jayhawks. Even without Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Kansas should appear in most preseason Top 5s.
Tennessee last played in this tournament in the 2008-09 season, beating Siena and Georgetown before falling to Gonzaga in the title game. Despite failing to appear in the NCAA Tournament since 1996, Santa Clara did win the CBI postseason tournament two years ago and the CIT four years ago, so there is a relative culture of winning with this program, and Tennessee will still be seen as an excellent opportunity to score an upset for the Broncos. The Vols open with VCU in Annapolis on November 14, then have one stop in Thompson-Boling against Texas Southern on November 20 before heading to the Magic Kingdom. And the first game back from Orlando is at home against Kansas State in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Wins will be precious in what should be an educational and hopefully entertaining start to the Donnie Tyndall era.