Tennessee Volunteers (11 seed, 22-12) vs. Massachusetts Minutemen (6 seed, 24-8)
When: March 21, 2014
Time: 2:45 pm
Led by senior guard Jordan McRae, who averages 18.5 points and 3.5 rebounds, Tennessee enters the round of 64 after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the “First Four” play-in-game on Wednesday, 78-65.
The way the Volunteers have been playing, winning five of six to end the season, with their only loss coming to Florida in the SEC tournament, the Vols won’t beat you offensively, but will suffocate opponents on defense, allowing just 61.2 points on 40.8 percent shooting.
Back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, the Vols lack of size and height will be a major factor in the game. The Minutemen start three seniors who are 6’8″ or taller, while the Vols only have two players 6’8’’ who play the entire game. Having allowed 68 or less points in nine straight games, their defensive play is going to need to continue if the Vols want to advance in the tournament.
Trying to defend the Minutemen offense is no easy task. Averaging 76.1 points, led by senior guard Chaz Williams, who averages 15.8 points and seven assists, UMass has three players averaging at least 10.5 points. Shooting 34.7 percent from downtown, and 68.2 percent from the free throw line, UMass’s greatest strength’s aren’t from beyond the arc or from the stripe, but they still find ways to score.
But down the stretch, the Minutemen were a bettor’s worst nightmare going 0-6 against the spread.
If the Vols are able to put points up on the scoreboard, while playing their trademark defense, the Vols will continue to roll into the round of 32. What may concern you is the fact that Tennessee has a lousy 1-6-1 ATS record in the NCAA tournament since 2000.
But have no fear. Trust me on this one. You’ll probably be sweating this one out till the end, but the better defensive and rebounding team will prevail. And that’s the Vols.