The Volunteers and Raiders are trending in somewhat opposite directions heading into their first-round matchup, but Tennessee will still be the heavy favorite.
The Vols made a run to the SEC conference tournament final, but are 6-4 in their last 10 contests. Colgate, on the other hand, hasn’t lost a game in its last 11 matchups, including the Patriot League conference tournament.
Date/Time: Friday, March 22, 2:45 p.m. ET
kenpom.com projection: Tennessee def. Colgate 83-68
Betting Line: Tennessee – 17.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
No. 2 seed Tennessee
Coach: Rick Barnes
Record: 29-5 (15-3)
Conference tournament finish: Runner-up
Player to Watch: Grant Williams
The Volunteers were the favorite to win the SEC regular season title heading into their matchup with Kentucky. The Wildcats demolished Tennessee, sending the Volunteers into a minor tailspin. After an overtime loss to LSU and a defeat at the end of the regular season to Auburn, Tennessee finished second in the conference.
Williams is the leader of a balanced offensive group ranked third in efficiency in the country, according to kenpom.com. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the regular season as part of five players who tallied double figures. Tennessee has three rotation players shooting 37 percent or better from deep, giving the Volunteers a solid inside-outside attack.
Tennessee is battle-tested with wins over Louisville and Gonzaga in the non-conference slate. The Volunteers also had a tough loss against Kansas. Yes, Barnes has historically underachieved in the tournament, but this is one of the most talented teams in his coaching career.
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No. 15 seed Colgate
Coach: Matt Langel
Record: 24-10 (13-5)
Conference tournament finish: Won Patriot League
Player to Watch: Rapolas Ivanauskas
The Raiders are winners of 11 straight and have to feel confident heading into the tournament. They’re 12th in the country in 3-point percentage and if they hit enough of those against Tennessee, we might see the upset.
Ivanauskas is a beast in the middle. He’s shooting 52.3 percent from the floor and 43.4 percent from behind the arc. Colgate has three rotation players shooting 41 percent or better from 3-point range. Ivanauskas is the star, but the Raiders have enough shooting around him to do damage.
Colgate didn’t really make its mark in the non-conference schedule, losing to Syracuse and Penn State. Can the Raiders match Tennessee’s physicality and be ready to withstand runs? If so, they’ll have the chance to advance out of this round.