Tennessee Volunteers: 25-8, 13-5 in the SEC
Head coach: Rick Barnes (3rd season)
Players to watch: Grant Williams (15.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG); Admiral Schofield (13.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 39.1 3PT%), Lamonte Turner (10.7 PPG, 40.5 3PT%)
Season recap: After being picked to finish 13th in the SEC in the preseason, the Volunteers were one of the most surprising teams in the nation and captured a share of the regular-season SEC title. Tennessee’s season got started on the right note when it notched wins against Purdue and N.C. State in the Battle for Atlantis. After performing well in conference play, the Volunteers made a run to the championship game of the SEC tournament, but could not win for a third consecutive time against Kentucky.
The Volunteers boast a deep team with seven players playing more than 20 minutes per game and no player at the 30-minute mark. 6-foot-11 Kyle Alexander mans the middle of the floor with a group of potent perimeter shooters—Tennessee has four rotation players shooting better than 38 percent from deep—around him.
But the real strength of the Volunteers is on the other end of the floor, where they finished the conference play ranked fourth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. Tennessee is extremely versatile and athletic on the perimeter, which makes getting open looks a challenge. With enough size down low, the Volunteers are also able to defend the rim effectively and clean the glass after misses.
How they make a run: The Volunteers take a page out of South Carolina’s book from last season and use a stout defense and strong perimeter shooting to make a deep run in the Big Dance.
How they falter: Tennessee’s reliance on 3-pointers comes back to haunt them, and the team goes on a long scoring drought that allows an opponent to upend the Volunteers early.