The trip to Hawaii was booked before the coaches were hired, but Wisconsin's Greg Gard and Tennessee's Rick Barnes will accept the challenge that comes with playing in the Maui Invitational.
Ninth-ranked Wisconsin (2-1) will meet Tennessee (1-1) in the opening game of the eight-team tournament on Monday afternoon.
The Badgers will likely fall in the rankings after a 79-67 loss to Creighton last week, but they bounced back to defeat Chicago State 69-51 before heading to the islands.
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Vito Brown scored 12 points in the uneven showing. Brown and Ethan Happ were a combined 9-of-13 from the field while Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter shot 4-of-22.
“We will continue to work and the guys will get better,” Gard said. “We got a little experience and now we have something to draw back on. We will practice in Maui and we are better based on our experiences this season. What we look for is taking a step forward each day.”
After 14 seasons as an assistant at the school, Gard was named interim head coach last December when Bo Ryan retired in the middle of the season. The 45-year old led the Badgers to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament to earn the job on a full-time basis.
Wisconsin is one of three ranked teams in the tournament along with fourth-ranked Oregon and No. 5 North Carolina.
The Badgers are led by Koenig with 15.7 points per game Hayes averages 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Hayes is shooting 38.7 percent after shooting 36.8 percent last season while Koenig is clicking at 42.5 percent.
Tennessee was upset 82-69 in its opener against Chattanooga before bouncing back to defeat Appalachian State 103-94 to start off Barnes' second season at the school.
Robert Hubbs III scored 16 points and six players reached double figures as the Volunteers scored 21 straight points in the first half and avoided their first 0-2 start since 1965-66.
“I thought we were much more aggressive offensively taking the shots that we want to take,” Barnes said. “I thought that part was good. We still made so many young mistakes that you can't make.”
Tennessee has a tough path as one of five unranked teams in Maui. If it beats Wisconsin, it could face No. 4 Oregon in the second round to possibly meet No. 5 North Carolina in the title game.
“It's always good to get your feet wet going and playing against teams like that, they're all well coached and they're all talented, so we're looking forward to those games,” Tennessee freshman guard Jordan Bone said.
Bone is one of five players scoring in double figured with a team-high 14 points per game. Freshman guard Lamonte Turner and Hubbs III are each averaging 13.5 points per game.
Freshman forward Grant Williams is at 10.5 points while sophomore forward Kyle Alexander is at 10.0.
“We have to get better on the defensive side. But I feel like we can score the ball really well,” Bone said.