Five reasons the Vols won't win the National Championship

The Tennessee Volunteers have proven they are serious contenders for the National Championship, but here are five reasons that could prevent them from winning it all.
Tennessee players walk on the court near the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky
Tennessee players walk on the court near the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky / Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY

The NCAA Tournament bracket is set, and Tennessee basketball is preparing to play Saint Peter's in the first round. The Vols are the No. 1/2 seed in the West region, which puts them in a good spot to make a run throughout late March, but there are some things holding them back.

Tennessee has consistently been one of the best teams in the country. Every SEC team did their best against the Vols throughout this year, but we saw some issues down the stretch. They ended up winning some of those games and losing a couple of others, which can be the reason why Tennessee has an early exit in the NCAA Tournament. 

Rick Barnes has put together one of the best teams he has had since coming to Knoxville. The Vols should be favorites to make a Final Four run this year due to their physical play, offensive and defensive efficiency, and breakout star Dalton Knecht. While the Vols have had a great season so far, here are five reasons why they won't win the national championship this year.

1. Foul Trouble

One big issue the Vols have faced down the stretch is foul trouble. We saw how it can change Tennessee's play on both ends of the court against Alabama. In that game, Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka earned two fouls each within the first six minutes.

This forced Tennessee to play one-dimensional basketball throughout the rest of the game, neutralizing Tennessee's ability to be physical down low and score points in the paint. Alabama took advantage of the Vols' lack of big men on its roster and forced Tennessee to keep the ball around the three-point line.

Tennessee has a deep roster, but if the wrong guys fall into early foul trouble, the Vols can become one-dimensional or play a game they are not used to playing. If Tennessee wants to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it has to make sure it stays out of foul trouble, especially early in the game.

2. Perimeter Play

Tennessee can shoot the three, but when they rely on their perimeter play to keep them in a game or make a comeback, things can go bad quickly. Sure, the Vols have Dalton Knecht, who can get hot and make a shot from anywhere on the court at any time, but that doesn't mean Tennessee should put their eggs in the three-point basket.

In 31 games, Tennessee has shot 34.6% from three, which is not great. The Vols fall between Grand Canyon and San Jose State in three-point percentage at 148th in the nation. Tennessee needs to remember that when going into the NCAA Tournament, just because you can shoot the three doesn't mean you should.

3. Post Presence

While draining three-pointers is not one of Tennessee's strong suits, dominating in the paint is a major reason Tennessee has developed into a national championship contender this season. If Aidoo, Awaka, and the Vols are not able to instill their post presence early in games, they will struggle to be effective and efficient on the offensive end of the court.

Barnes' physical play and presence in the paint area is a staple in his coaching identity. He must emphasize this throughout the tournament for the Vols to get and keep the upper hand on their opponents. There aren't too many teams in the nation that can out-physical and provide a stronger paint and post presence than the Volunteers.

4. Depth

Tennessee's depth allows them to be versatile, but it can also bite them if certain players fall into early foul trouble or role players aren't able to provide effective and efficient play on the court.

I don't think anyone expects their team's bench and role players to have a breakout performance or take over the NCAA Tournament, but Tennessee has some talent outside their top five that can change a game.

We saw this happen with Jahmai Mashack against Alabama. We've also seen Jordan Gainey have a few games where he scored 15+ points, but that is rare. The Vols can't fall into foul trouble or face issues that force them to go deep into their bench for meaningful production to go on a deep tournament run.

5. Dalton Knecht

While Dalton Knecht could be a big reason Tennessee makes a Final Four run and wins a national championship, he could also be the reason the Vols don't make a deep run in the tournament. That's not directly his fault because he is a problem for opponents, but because his teammates can put the ball in his hands and watch and not play basketball.

If Knecht has the hot hand, feed him, but he's not the only shooter on Tennessee's roster. Is he the best player? No doubt. Can he change a game without the ball in his hand? Absolutely. Defenses know what kind of player he is and will look to double and triple-team him throughout the game.

Tennessee has to take advantage of this and use it to expose their opponents' weaknesses, rather than settle and watch Knecht with the ball in his hand.

I wouldn't be surprised if Knecht scores 30+ points at least once in the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn't mean we, as fans or his teammates, should expect that from him every game. If the Vols plan to rely on Knecht every game for 30 or 40 points, they could slip up and lose a game they shouldn't.

Next. Rick Barnes' five worst postseason losses at Tennessee. Rick Barnes' five worst postseason losses at Tennessee. dark

Tennessee's first-round matchup will be against the MAAC Tournament Champions, the Saint Peter's Peacocks, who will be looking to upset another SEC Champion from the No. 15 seed. The Vols will have to bring their A-game if they want to avoid another early exit.