Vols Basketball: Match-up with UMass


The Vols survived this round. Can they carry the momentum? PHOTO: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

“Survive and Advance” is the motto of March Madness, and the Tennessee Vols survived Wednesday night and will advance to the Round of 64 to play 6th seeded Massachusetts.

The Vols (22-12) survived a 12 point deficit in the 1st half against Iowa (20-13) Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio, and thanks to Antonio Barton and especially Josh Richardson, the Vols will advance after a tough 78-65 overtime victory. Richardson started out missing his first 6 shots from the field, but he came alive in the 2nd half and hit 6 of his last 7 shots to finish with 17 points. He also shut down Iowa’s leading scorer, Roy Devyn Marble, by holding him to just 7 points.

Tennessee started out playing poorly on offense and playing lackluster defense for the most part of the 1st half, but they were able to slash a 12 point deficit to just 3 at halftime, and with a little over 3 minutes left to play in the 2nd half, Barton drained a three and gave the Vols their first lead of the game.

Marble, who was frustrated by Richardson all night, sunk a clutch jumper in the last minute of regulation to tie the game, and after Jordan McRae’s three-pointer didn’t hit, the game went into overtime.

The Vols had renewed life and came out ready to play in the extended period. They outscored Iowa 14-1 in overtime, and now they have a chance to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.

Waiting for the Vols in Raleigh, NC are the Minutemen of Massachusetts. UMass (24-8) was awarded the 6th seed in the Midwest bracket, and here is a breakdown of the Vols’ next opponent:

UMass blazed through the first half of their schedule, winning their first 10 games before losing their first game against Florida State and then rattling off 6 more wins before losing to Richmond. They’ve struggled in their last 5 games, however, losing 3 of their previous 5 games.

The Vols will once again play an efficient offensive team, but the Minutemen don’t bring quite as much firepower and versatility as Iowa did. They average 76.1 points per game (56th in the NCAA), 38.6 rebounds per game (26th), 15.2 assists per game (35th), and shoot the ball at a 46.0% clip (82nd).

If there’s one thing the Vols have struggled with all season, it’s containing good point guards. And that’s just what UMass brings to the table. The 5’9″ Chaz Williams is the team’s leading scorer with 15.8 points per game, and he dishes out 7 assists per game as well. He can score and he can distribute, which is the kind of point guard the Vols have been killed by this season.

The Minutemen also have some size down low that can possibly contend with Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes. Cady Lalanne measures in at 6’10” and 250 lbs. and averages 11.4 points and 8 rebounds per game. Sampson Carter is no slouch either, measuring 6’8″ and 220 lbs. and chipping in 10.5 points and 4.9 rebounds a game as well.

Once again, the Vols will face a team with a productive bench. UMass has 7 players who average 8.8 points per game or better and play 21 minutes or more per game.

If the Minutemen have any glaring weaknesses, it’s their free throw shooting and turnover ratio. UMass only hits 68.2% of their free throws on the season, which is far below UT’s average of 71.4%. The Minutemen also turn the ball over about 14 times a game, and point guard Chaz Williams is responsible for 3.4 turnovers a game.

The Vols will take on the Minutemen at approximately 2:45 PM on Friday afternoon. Tune in to see if the Vols can once again “survive and advance” onto a match-up with the winner of the No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer game.

All stats for Massachusetts via ESPN.com