Wright State vs Tennessee Preview and Prediction
Wright State vs Tennessee Preview
Tennessee opens the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Dallas at American Airlines Center against Horizon League Tournament title team Wright State.
The Vols (25-8) are the South Region No. 3 seed, while the No. 14-seed Raiders (25-9) are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years.
Kampe said Tennessee should be careful not to overlook Wright State.
“They beat Georgia Tech at Georgia Tech — this will be a basketball game, I guarantee you that,” Kampe said. “They will play smart and hard, and their coach has been around and been to tournaments.
“The moment won’t be too big for them.”
Wright State and Tennessee share one common opponent, Georgia Tech. The Vols beat the Yellowjackets 77-70 on Dec. 3 in Atlanta, and the Raiders beat Georgia Tech 85-81 in Atlanta on Dec. 22.
Wright State coming in hot
The Raiders are on a 4-game win streak after finishing 14-4 in conference play this season. Wright State was 8-7 in road games and 3-0 on neutral courts. They have won 19 of their last 22 games and come in severely underrated as a No.14 seed.
Long time coming
Tennessee last reached the tournament in 2014, earning a bid in a play-in game. The Vols ran off three straight wins before falling to Michigan in the Sweet 16, and they haven’t been back since.
The Vols went 15-17 in Rick Barnes’ first season and 16-16 last season, but put it together in his third season and won a share of the SEC regular-season title.
Tennessee rolled through the non-conference portion of its year, gaining a marquee win in its third game when it beat Purdue in overtime in the Battle 4 Atlantis. UT also beat NC State and won road games at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest to set itself up to reach the tournament for the first time in Barnes’ tenure.
“Two years in a row, I go back to that first year,” said Barnes, who has now taken four programs to the NCAA tournament. “Guys came in and they bought into it. Then last year, we were in a position and couldn’t finish it. This year’s group got the work done early. This will be a new experience for them. They’ve had a lot of challenges this year, and they’ve been put in a lot of situations. This is another step for them. Let’s see what we can do with it.”
Wright State X-Factors
Two guys lead the way for Wright State, senior guard Grant Benzinger who leads the team with 14.5 points per game. He also chips in with 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per night. The other X-Factor for the Raiders is freshman big man Loudon Love who nearly averages a double-double with 12.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. If he can own the paint, Wright State has a chance to pull off the upset.
One of the most talented forwards in the SEC leads the way for Tennessee. Sophomore forward Grant Williams is the Vols leading scorer with 15.3 points per night–he’s also lethal on the glass averaging six rebounds per game.
Admiral Schofield is second on the team with 13.8 points per game and leads the squad with 6.3 rebounds per night. After Tennessee’s loss to Kentucky in the SEC Conference Tournament final, Schofield gave an inside look at coach Rick Barnes statement to the team after the game…”Coach Barnes told us he’d trade all 10 of his conference championships for one national championship, and he’s right. This hurts, man. This really hurts. But let’s learn from it and go win the big one.”
Schofield believes this team can cut down the nets this season.
LINE: -13 Tennessee
While I’m not sold on a lengthy Tennessee tournament run, they are talented enough to play multiple games. Wright State boasts one of the best young freshman in the country with Loudon Love, but the Vols are one team that can withstand his power and size in the paint.
The line is around where I believe this game will end–close throughout, but the Vols will be too much in the second half.
Tennessee 77 Wright State 66