On Thursday, Tennessee takes on Purdue in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The last time Tennessee made it this far in the tournament was in 2014 against Michigan. A game that is still controversial for Tennessee fans.
This time around, though, the Volunteers seem much better equipped to continue their tournament run against a Purdue team that they match up well against. Here’s what they’ll have to do to advance to the Elite Eight and take on the winner of the Oregon-Virginia game later that night.
Don’t Let Carsen Edwards Get Hot
Carsen Edwards is one of the single hottest scorers still left in the tournament. He followed up a strong 26-point outing in the first round of the tournament against Old Dominion with an outstanding 42-point game against the reigning champions Villanova.
Edwards has been the very definition of a volume shooter this season, averaging 10.2 3-point attempts per game. For a team like Tennessee that has struggled in defending the long ball at times, that could be a problem. The match-up between Edwards and Tennessee’s guards will be one of the more intriguing situations to monitor as the game goes on.
Get Admiral Going On Offense
There are always statistical differences that arise between winning games and losing games. Without diving too deep into what all those have been for Tennessee this season, one of my personal favorites has been Admiral Schofield’s shooting percentage in wins compared to losses.
In five losses this year, Schofield has averaged 41 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. In 31 wins, Schofield has averaged 48.8 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range. You don’t need to be stat-head to understand just how big of a difference that is.
Needless to say, Tennessee’s offense will go wherever Schofield takes them for the rest of the tournament.
“Always be closing,” as Alec Baldwin once told us, and the Volunteers have not been closers so far this NCAA Tournament.
Against Colgate in the first round, Tennessee led by as many as 14 and was up 42-30 at half. They would go on to blow that lead and tie the score about halfway through the second half. Of course Tennessee won in the end, but blowing a lead had media and fans around the country tuning in to see if a 15-seed Colgate could possibly sneak up on 2-seed Tennessee.
Then there was the Iowa game, where Tennessee was leading by as many as 25, at one point, and looked like a team that could win the whole tournament with relative ease. In case you don’t see the trend, yet, that lead didn’t hold up for long, either. Tennessee let Iowa storm back, somehow, and needed overtime to eventually win it.
Tennessee likely can’t afford to keep blowing those kinds of leads the rest of the tournament. But if they can contain Edwards, get Schofield going on offense, and close the game out once they secure a late lead, Tennessee should be able to at least clear the Purdue hurdle to advance to the Elite Eight.