Tennessee fouls out of NCAA Tournament

Tennessee basketball's postseason run comes to an end in Detroit, Michigan, as the Vols fell to Purdue 72-66 in the Elite 8.
Tennessee v Purdue
Tennessee v Purdue / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages

Tennessee basketball's postseason run comes to an end in Detroit, Michigan, as the Vols fell to Purdue 72-66 in the Elite 8. It was a lot of the same from their first matchup against Purdue in November.

There was a lot of attention drawn by officials, for good reason, as it seemed like Tennessee was called for breathing on Purdue players. This foul trouble ultimately hurt Tennessee down the stretch, similar to Gonzaga. The Zags were closing in on a win against Purdue in the Sweet 16 before the inevitable foul trouble resulted in the loss.

Tennessee had two players foul out, one more with four fouls, while Zach Edey collected one foul all game. If you watched this game, you could see how this seems impossible given how often Edey had the ball in his hands, was hooking Tennessee players' arms, lowered his shoulder, or played a physical brand of basketball that typically calls for whistles. 

I understand that Tennessee also plays a very physical style of basketball. With that come fouls, but when the foul calls are so lopsided like they were in this game, there are clear questions about the intentions behind the officials.

I also feel bad for the seniors on this team because they deserved a better shot at a trip to the Final Four than what they got by the stripes and NCAA, but that's just not something they can control. The Vols still had some missed shots and opportunities and didn't maximize the things they could control.

While there are many excuses the Vols can cling to for this loss, it still comes down to not making open shots and Tennessee's playmakers showing up when it matters.

Tennessee missed many midrange shots they have to make if they want to keep playing this late into the season. Jonas Aidoo went 0-for-4 and watched most of the game from the bench after not being on his A-game in the first half.

As much as I love him, Zakai Zeigler was not at his best either. He only made three field goals in this game and contributed to the Vols' struggles on the offensive end of the court. Santiago Vescovi returned but didn't bring much for the Vols. He only played a handful of minutes and played decently on defense, but he also didn't record a basket.

Dalton Knecht brought the same stuff he has brought to every game since January. He was the best player on the court for all 40 minutes and finished with 37 points, but he wasn't able to make every shot he needed down the stretch and in the final couple of minutes to keep the Vols' season alive.

Knecht is a finalist for the Naismith Trophy Player of the Year Award, and we will see if the NCAA makes the right decision and award him the trophy. He is the most deserving of the finalists and would be the best player on the court against any of them.

The story of this game is going to be Tennessee's foul trouble. That will also be the story for each team that will play Purdue in the tournament's Final Four and championship rounds. This year's team is one of the best Rick Barnes will have in Knoxville.

It's unfortunate they were given the Midwest Region draw, but that won't take away from the magic they put together towards the end of this season. Enjoy the run they took us on and the exciting wins over Alabama (x2), Kentucky at Rupp, Auburn, and a run to the Elite 8.