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March 26, 2014 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-26

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8A - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Know your foe: Getting to know Tennessee

Daily Sports Editor
Fans of the Michigan men's
basketball team aren't that
unfamiliar with Tennessee,
the Wolverines' Sweet 16
opponent. In a first-round NCAA
Tournament game just three
years ago, Michigan dismantled
the Volunteers, 75-45.
But this Tennessee team is
a completely different squad,
beginning at the top. Michigan's
blowout was a clear enough
sign to the Volunteer athletic
department that coach Bruce
Pearl had lost his team, ushering
in the Cuonzo Martin regime.
Martin himself was on the
hot seat just a few weeks ago, but
three NCAA Tournament wins
in the past week have prompted
some analysts to label Tennessee
the hottest team in America.
The Daily breaks down
the Volunteers so you'll be
prepared for Friday's matchup in

feature a lineup that's filled with
talent - especially in forward
Jarnell Stokes, who averages a
double-double, and guard Jordan
McRae, who shot his way to seven
games of 25 or more points - but
the team's effort has come into
question at times.
That dichotomy shows in the
highs of Tennessee's wins -
including a 35-point December
blowout over Virginia, currently
a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16
- and the lows of some of its
losses, including a season sweep
at the hands of a mediocre Texas
A&M team and an early-season
loss to UTEP.
Playing in the top-heavy SEC,
11of the Volunteers' 12 conference
wins were by double digits, six of
those by 18 or more. Only one of
their 12 losses this season, a 67-41
drubbing at No. 1 Florida, was by
double digits.
After inexplicably losing
six conference games that
landed Martin on the hot seat
in Knoxville, Tennessee reeled
off wins in six of its last seven.
And all those lopsided wins and
close losses were enough to land
Tennessee at No. 6 in the KenPom

ratings - a rating metric designed
to predictthestrengthofateam -
a jaw-dropping figure considering
the Volunteers squeaked into the
Despite being a No. 11 seed that
had to win a play-in game just to
make the field of 64, Tennessee
is no Cinderella story, no matter
what SportsCenter wanted you
to believe when they featured
the team alongside fellow Sweet
16 participant and mid-major
The fact of the matter is that
the Volunteers are, again, a
talented team that, since the end
of February has finally begun to
play up to its potential.
Tennessee began its
Tournament path against Iowa
in what's technically the first
round, but is reserved for the last
eight teams in. In that game, the
Volunteers needed overtime to
get past the reeling Hawkeyes.
It took a late-game comeback
for the Tennessee defense to
come alive. When it did, it flexed
its muscles in style, holding the
dangerous Iowa offense to a

single point in overtime. In the stop monstrous Texas forward
game's final 10 minutes, including Cameron Ridley, the key to the
overtime, the Hawkeyes managed Longhorns' inside-out game.
just two field goals. Morgan passed the test with
Two days later in Raleigh, flying colors, and Texas' offense
N.C., Tennessee looked like a struggled as a result.
well-rested team with fresh legs But Friday's foe should be
that had a week and not a single even tougher. At 6-foot-8, 260
day to ready for its opponent. pounds, Stokes has an inch and
The Volunteers easily took down 25 pounds on Ridley, but the
No. 6 seed Massachusetts, 86-67, Tennessee junior uses his girth
after nearly doubling up the more effectively, is more polished
Minutemen in the first half than Ridley and won't tire easily
Tennessee was handed a third- like the Texas sophomore.
round gift after Mercer upset Stokes' Tournament run has
Duke. The 14th-seeded Bears been as strong as any player in
were no match for the Volunteers, the country. After averaging
who got out to a quick start and 15.2 points and 10.7 rebounds in
won easily, 83-63. the regular season - one of only
three BCS-conference players
Talent inside and out: to average a double-double -
Last weekend, fifth-year senior the junior has averaged 17.7
Jordan Morgan had to repeatedly points and 11.7 rebounds in the
answer questions about how he'd Tournament.

While Texas' talent was
limited to its interior players,
allowing Michigan to hone in on
the paint, Tennessee's perimeter
game is as strong as its interior.
McRae, a senior guard, is
capable of putting a team on his
back, going off for 30-plus point
games twice this season. He
scored 20 points against Iowa and
21 against UMass, before an off
shooting night limited him to 14
against Mercer. But, as explosive
as McRae canbe, his high-volume
shooting is sometimes enough to
stifle the offense.
Guard Josh Richardson,
another upperclassman, averaged
just 10.1 points in the regular
season, but has saved his best for
the postseason. He's averaging
19.3 points in the three-game
stretch, rounding out asolid three-

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