Tennessee Basketball: NCAA Tournament analysis, scenarios, more

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 10: Julian Phillips #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers drives towards the basket against the Missouri Tigers in the first half during the quarterfinals of the 2023 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 10: Julian Phillips #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers drives towards the basket against the Missouri Tigers in the first half during the quarterfinals of the 2023 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images) /

Tennessee basketball… are y’all ready to go dancing?

Tennessee basketball enters the Tournament as a No. 4 seed in the east region, the fourth time the program has earned as a four-seed in school history.

Tennessee basketball possible scenarios in each round of the NCAA Tournament

Round of 64:

In the round of 64, the Volunteers will be taking on the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

Vs. Louisiana: This will be a matchup between similar offenses but drastically different defenses. Louisiana ranks 57th in AdjO (adjusted offensive efficiency), and Tennessee ranks 49th, according to KenPom. While this may seem similar, it’s not so similar on the defensive side. Tennessee basketball ranks 2nd in the country, and Louisiana ranks 146th according to KenPom’s AdjD (adjusted defensive efficiency). It’s also important to note that Louisiana’s strength of schedule was the polar opposite of the Volunteers’.

I will dig deeper into this particular matchup in another article, so keep an eye out for my betting predictions and in-depth analysis of this game.

Round of 32:

In the round of 32, Tennessee basketball will either face the Duke Blue Devils (5) or the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (12).

Vs. Duke: It would likely be a tight matchup if the Volunteers faced the Duke Blue Devils. Duke has a slightly better AdjO efficiency (42nd vs. 49th), but the Vols are much better in AdjD efficiency (2nd vs. 24th). Even without star Point guard Zakai Zeigler, the Vols matchup exceptionally well against the Blue Devils and would take care of business, moving on to the Sweet 16.

Vs. Oral Roberts: On the other hand, if Oral Roberts upsets Duke and faces the Volunteers, I think this is a worse matchup for the Vols. I would rather play Duke in this round because the two teams are very similar, but the Vols have an edge in defense. If the Vols take on Oral Roberts, they are severely at a disadvantage on the offensive side of the ball. The Golden Eagles may be able to find ways to exploit our defense. The Vols will then have to rely on their offense to keep them in the game, which has proven to be inconsistent.

Sweet 16:

In the Sweet 16, Tennessee basketball will likely face Purdue (1), Memphis (8), or FAU (9)

Vs. Purdue: Multiple factors go into the likely sweet 16-game against Purdue. Looking at purely the offensive and defensive metrics, the Vols have a much worse offense than the Boilermakers (7th vs. 49th). However, Tennessee’s defense is much more vigorous than Purdue’s (2nd vs. 26th). So, these two will cancel each other out, and the result of this game will come based on a critical metric that I have been tracking all year. This metric is KenPom’s Luck rating, which is the deviation between a team’s actual winning percentage and the above metrics’ expectations. If teams win close games, they are considered “lucky.” Tennessee basketball has a 324th-ranked luck rating, while Purdue has a 97th-ranked luck rating. Is Purude more “Lucky,” or are they simply just better at finishing games? The Vols are ranked almost dead last in Luck, so will this trend continue, or is there a possibility of the Vols finding themselves in the Tournament and they learn how to finish close games?

Vs. Memphis: If Memphis finds a way to upset Purdue in the round of 32, this game becomes drastically easier, and the Vols will feel lucky not to have to face the No. 1-seeded Purdue. Memphis is a solid team; they have a good offense (26th) and a decent defense (35th). The Vols, however, have a defense that will suffocate this Memphis offense and take care of business on the offensive side.

Vs. FAU: If FAU upsets Memphis and Purdue, this cinderella run for FAU ends in the Sweet 16. FAU is a good team; they are incredibly similar to Memphis but have much less Tournament experience. The lack of NCAA tournament experience may come back to bite them in a matchup with the Volunteers in the Sweet 16.

Elite Eight:

In the Elite Eight, Tennessee basketball will likely face Marquette (2), Kentucky (6), or Kansas State (3).

Vs. Marquette: If Tennessee basketball faces the No. 2 seeded Golden Eagles in the Elite Eight, it will be the most challenging game they have played all year. Marquette is arguably the hottest team in basketball right now; they have the No. 8 ranked offense and have been playing like the No. 1 recently. It will be a test of the year for this Volunteer defense, and I am unsure if they will hang with this Marquette team that has shooters in every position on the court.

Vs. Kentucky: Kentucky has had the Vols number all year long. However, it’s challenging to beat a good team 2 times in a row. Still, something even rarer is beating an elite team 3 times in a row, especially when that team is much better than you are. Tennessee basketball is the far superior team to the Kentucky Wildcats. If given the opportunity to play them again, I am confident that the Vols will take care of business in the Elite Eight.

Vs. Kansas State: If The Vols play Kansas State in the Elite Eight, this would be quite an exciting matchup. The Vols, for the first time in the Tournament, would have a better AdjO and AdjD. This is the ideal matchup in the Elite Eight for the Vols and would give them the best chance at winning.

Final Four:

It’s difficult to predict who would win the South region that takes on the Volunteers in the Final Four, but for the sake of this article, let’s narrow it down to three of the likeliest possibilities.

Vs. Alabama

Vs. Arizona

Vs. Baylor

All three teams will be tough tests for the Volunteers, but I can see a miracle run happening and the Vols moving onto the Finals.

NCAA Championship:

There are so many teams that the Vols could face in the Finals, so it’s almost impossible to predict who that would be. Drop whom you think the Vols could face in the finals and tag @Allfortennessee on Twitter and Facebook!

NCAA Tournament historical data of No. 4 seeds. dark. Next