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From The Stands: Which Tennessee team will take the court against Creighton?

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Geez, could two games be more different 48 hours apart?

The Vols team that showed up on Thursday night against Saint Peters was what Vol fans were hoping for in this NCAA Tourney.  The Vols looked close to invincible in completely dominating a first round opponent in a 34 point romp.

That Tennessee team displayed a combination of offense and defense that could take it to a program first Final Four and possibly a national title. 

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But the euphoria of that first round game was short lived.  Tennessee needed clutch free throw shooting in the final minute to overcome a Texas comeback from 11 down that was assisted by the Vols ice-cold shooting and several untimely turnovers.

How bad was the difference between the two offensive performances by the Vols?  Consider on Thursday night, the Vols shot 11 of 24 (46%) on 3-point shots.  On Saturday, they shot a paltry 3 of 25 (12%) from the arc.  Overall, the Vols shot 51% against Saint Peters compared to 34% against Texas.  If not for an 83% night from the stripe on 15 of 18 shooting, the Vols most likely do not come away with the win in their Round 2 game.

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Two other critical factors in the Vols win over Texas were turnovers and rebounds, both advantages to the Vols winning the boards by six and turning over Texas five more times. Make no doubt about it, this was a game that past Tennessee teams have lost.

Vol fans should appreciate the win and look forward to the Sweet 16. It has been reported that Tennessee is the first team to ever win a NCAA Tourney game when shooting less than 15% on 3-point attempts and less than 35% overall from the field.  Sixty-six times teams have lost with those poor shooting percentages.  Tennessee’s defense came to the rescue Saturday night and needs to remain at that elite level against Creighton and the remainder of the tourney.  

No question the Vols’ defense is elite and it showed in both games.  It will once again be crucial in the Sweet 16 matchup with a very good shooting Creighton team.  Creighton can shoot the lights out and it will be imperative that the Vols’ defense contests every shot and make it tough on the Creighton sharp shooters.

I suspect this matchup favors the Vols with a reasonable offensive night by Tennessee.  I also expect Tennessee’s defense to give Creighton problems led by Zakai Zeigler who is the spark that triggers the Vols defense.  One thing the Vols really need to avoid is a shaky start. I’ve noticed that when Aidoo begins a game missing point blank shots and making turnovers, it impacts the entire Vol offense for seemingly the remainder of the game.  The Vols have lost most of their games that have begun in that manner this season.  

Tennessee and Alabama are the only two SEC teams in the Sweet 16 after six conference teams were eliminated during the first two tourney rounds.  While Tennessee matches up with 3rd seed Creighton, Bama now gets one seed North Carolina.  

Both teams will have tough matchups to get through to the Elite 8.  Hoping the Vols can take care of their business and be ready for a probable rematch from earlier in the season with one seed Purdue.  Vols gave them a good battle in the Maui Tourney, I think they can win a rematch.

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