University of Tennessee (11 Seed, Midwest Bracket)
Record: 21-12 (11-7 in SEC)
Coach: Cuonzo Martin
Tournament Berth: Win and your in
Big Wins: Virginia, Ole Miss, Georgia, Arkansas, LSU
Big Loses: UTEP, Kentucky, Wichita State, NC State, Florida
The Volunteers opened 2013-14 with a 67-63 loss to Xavier, before winning their next three in decisive fashion . Tennessee would then lose 78-70 to UTEP in the November Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, in a game where they shot a dismal 34.9 percent from the floor, while allowing Texas-El Paso to shoot a stellar 58.0 percent. The Vols rebounded to win their next three, including solid wins over Xavier and Wake Forest, and closed the non-conference schedule with three wins and two losses, highlighted by an 87-52 rout of NCAA no. 1 seed Virginia, to take a 9-4 record into SEC play.
Tennessee began its conference schedule to mixed results, sandwiching wins with losses until finally winning back to back dates against Ole Miss and Alabama eight games into the SEC part of the schedule. Losses in four of the next six would follow before the Volunteers hit their stride and reeled off their last five conference games before losing a tight one to Florida 56-49 in the SEC tournament semi-finals.
F – Jeronne Maymon
F – Jarnell Stokes
G – Antonio Barton
G – Jordan McRae
G – Josh Richardson
Who’s Hot: Senior G Jordan McRae. McRae is long, athletic playmaker who likes to shoot from distance almost as much as he likes to take it to the rim. Mc Rae scored 20 or more points in 14 games this season and went over 30 twice. He’s projected a second round NBA draft pick who loves the stage. Expect him to use every bit of this one to showcase his talents
Who’s Not: The Vols don’t field a lot of size. Their biggest players, junior C Rawane Ndiaye and freshman F A.J. Davis don’t see the floor much and are averaging 2.4 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest. This is a team that likes to run, but that’s something that may need to change to not only get into the main field, but to make any kind of run as well.
Outlook: Tennessee has to get by a solid Iowa team to get into the 64-team field. Iowa has struggled a bit this season with smaller, athletic teams and that happens to be exactly what the Volunteers are. That said, these are high stakes and both have performed well in big games. The Hawkeyes took out then no. 3 Ohio State, lost narrowly to ranked Michigan State teams twice, and took highly-ranked Wisconsin teams to the wire twice. Meanwhile, Tennessee toasted both Xavier and Wake Forest in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and held a 10-point lead against Florida in the SEC tournament in a game they probably should have won. The Volunteers only have one style of play, though, and if McRae’s not clicking, their tournament will be over before it even begins.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat