Part of coaching the Lady Vols means testing yourself against the nation’s best opponents. Kim Caldwell will experience that in her first season coaching Tennessee.

The Lady Vols will host UConn next season, a restoration of a rivalry that went on a one-year hiatus last season. There was a time when this rivalry of blue bloods and clash of Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma defined the sport. The rivalry isn’t what it once was and neither is either program. Still, UConn is coming off a Final Four appearance, while Tennessee is a program searching for its footing.

Kim Caldwell: What to know about Lady Vols basketball coach

Can the Lady Vols possibly be prepared to handle UConn in Caldwell’s first season?

On this edition of “The Volunteer State,” Blake Toppmeyer of the USA TODAY Network and the News Sentinel’s Cora Hall and John Adams weigh in on the rivalry restoration.

They also assess Caldwell’s first month on the job and her efforts to boost the roster through transfer portal additions. And they evaluate Tennessee’s chance to keep its NCAA Tournament appearance streak alive in Caldwell’s debut.

The Lady Vols will host UConn next season. What to make of the rivalry’s renewal?

Toppmeyer: These blue bloods should play annually. These programs and this rivalry once powered the sport. As women’s basketball reaches a zenith, of course a rivalry that once defined the sport should be played. Neither program is what it was, although UConn remains closer to its peak. This rivalry still resonates, though, albeit not to the level it once did. A rivalry past its peak remains better than no rivalry at all.

Hall: This rivalry can be a tool remember the sport’s history. Women’s basketball is exploding. That’s amazing. But, some new fans know little about the sport’s history. A rivalry like Tennessee-UConn, while not as relevant as it was, provides a reminder of two programs valuable to the sport’s heritage.

Adams: This game should be played. One of the few times I’ve criticized Pat Summitt came after she canceled this series after the 2007 game. I understood why she did it, but I didn’t agree with her decision. Win or lose in a particular year, both programs benefited from each other and made each other better. Anybody who has followed women’s basketball throughout the past 30 years can relate to this rivalry. Not many women’s basketball rivalries compare to this one. I know it’s kind of outdated, but it’s still UConn vs. Tennessee. This rivalry still generates interest.

Can Lady Vols compete with UConn in Kim Caldwell’s first season?

Toppmeyer: Sure. For one quarter. Maybe a quarter and a half. The Lady Vols could feed off the home crowd’s energy to make things interesting for a while before talent takes over and UConn wins going away.

Hall: No. This is a tough matchup in Caldwell’s first season. Top to bottom, UConn has one of the nation’s best rosters. Paige Bueckers. Azzi Fudd. Sarah Strong. UConn is legit. Even if Tennessee executes Caldwell’s system, UConn’s talent will be hard to overcome.

Adams: The short answer is: No. The crowd will be into it, for sentimental reasons, if nothing else. Lady Vols fans still hate Geno. UConn doesn’t win annual national championships anymore, but it remains very good. Tennessee’s roster doesn’t stack up.

Could Lady Vols be in danger of missing NCAA Tournament in Kim Caldwell’s first season?

Toppmeyer: I could see the Lady Vols being a bubble team. Part of the reason Tennessee fired Kellie Harper was because she didn’t recruit well enough to position the Lady Vols for the future. Those chickens will come home to roost this season.

Adams: Missing the NCAA Tournament is a real possibility. The SEC might be better than ever, buoyed by the arrival of Texas and Oklahoma. Tennessee will struggle to keep up. I don’t blame Caldwell for that. She added a few transfers to prop up the team, but she inherited a roster that was not built for success this season. This is not really Caldwell’s roster.

Hall: Tennessee will lack star power. This season will test whether Caldwell’s system can work at this level and whether she can make an NCAA Tournament without the backing of a player who averages 20 points per game.

Kim Caldwell landed three transfers. Could Lady Vols still add more?

Hall: They have three scholarships open. Caldwell uses an up-tempo system with frequent substitutions, so the more scholarship players she can add, the better. A sharpshooting guard would help. So would a strong perimeter defender. But, the portal pickings are slim at this stage.