2011 NCAA Tournament Preview: 8-Seed Michigan vs. 9-Seed Tennessee

Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson's hair have had an up-and-down year, but you should expect them to battle with the Wolverines. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Gametime --- 11:40 AM CT/ 12:40 PM ET

TV --- Tru TV

This year's tournament bracket hasn't just caused controversy with some of the teams included and omitted; many people are questioning the seeding of numerous teams, and some conspiracy theorists are pointing fingers at the interesting seeds for the bubble teams of the Big Ten.

Penn State and Michigan State are 10-seeds, Illinois is a 9-seed, and Michigan, perhaps the most surprising, is an 8-seed. Although many are arguing these teams deserved to be lower, the seeding for these teams actually might be a bad thing for them, as the potential 2nd round opponents are now San Diego State, Florida, Kansas, and Duke. And that's if they can get past their 1st round match-ups, who are clearly capable of ending any of the mentioned teams's seasons quickly.

Many people may be upset, but what's done is done, and now the Wolverines are looking to beat a Tennessee team that at one point looked like a Top 5 powerhouse. Of course, after beating Pittsburgh on the road, the Vols then dropped three games in a row to two mid majors and USC. The Vols were 12-11 from that point onward, making their selection as a 9-seed equally questionable.

This game will be a match-up of two teams that aren't very deep, aren't very experienced, and are very evenly matched in terms of just about everything. People may not like where they stand, and they may just be playing for an opportunity to get blown out by Duke, but Michigan vs. Tennessee should be an exciting, down-to-the-wire game, which is what everyone should want from their first round games in the end.

[UPDATE: While it appears Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl will coach for the tournament, signs are pointing towards his firing when the season ends for the Vols. We'll see how his team responds mentally to the situation at hand.]

Stat Breakdown

  • Both teams rely heavily on their starters for scoring purposes. One of the biggest factors in the game will be how the secondary scorers (Novak, Morgan, ect. for Michigan and Tatum, Goins, Williams, ect for Tennessee) play. I expect big things from Scotty Hopson, Tobias Harris, Darius Morris, and Tim Hardaway, Jr. We'll just have to see which role players for which team show up.

 

Michigan

 Opp.

Tennessee

Opp.

Pace (# of Possessions)

65

Points Per Possession

1.06

1.0

1.04

0.99

Points Per Minute

1.65

1.57

1.76

1.68

Points Per Shot

1.23

1.17

1.23

1.22

2-PT FG%

50.9%

48.9%

48.8%

46.3%

3-PT FG%

35.4%

32.7%

30.4%

33.2%

FT%

69.6%

N/A

68.3%

N/A

True Shooting%

54.9%

52.0%

52.3%

52.3%

 

 

 

 

 

Assists Per Game

13.5

13

13.1

11.9

Steals Per Game

4.7

4.4

7.5

6.8

Turnovers Per Game

10.1

11.5

13.2

14.1

Ball Control Index (BCI)

(Assists + Steals/ TOVs)

1.80

1.51

1.56

1.33

 

 

 

 

 

Total Rebs Per Game

33.2

33.9

38.0

33.8

Offensive Rebs Per Game

8.3

9.7

13.9

11.4

  • Take away the average pace and you have two teams that match up evenly in almost every statistical category. Both teams play stingy defense and are good with ball handling and causing turnovers while being mostly average on the offensive end of the court.
  • Michigan's one clear advantage is three point shooting (and it really isn't much of an advantage). If the Wolverines can get the Vols to fire up some bad shots from behind the line while taking and making some smart shots of their own, then they can have a chance at building a lead.
  • Tennessee's big statistical advantage is rebounding; the Vols average almost 6 more offensive rebounds per game than Michigan. This is likely due to their offensive style; jack of a shot and see if it goes in, then crash the boards if it misses and either (a) clean it up or (b) kick back out for a wide open  jumper. It's ugly, but sometimes it can be very effective.
  • Tennessee really is one of the worst three point shooting teams in the country, but they have been known to have games with ridiculous shooting percentages (See: vs Pitt, Memphis)

Kenpom Stats

Michigan Offense vs Tennessee Defense Ranks

 

Michigan Offense

Tennessee Defense

Advantage

Efficiency

45

48

Push

Effective FG%

55

101

Michigan

Turnover %

14

116

Michigan Big

Off. Reb. %

327

127

Tennessee Big

FTA/FGA

339

193

Tennessee Big

Tennessee Offense vs Michigan Defense Ranks

 

Tennessee Offense

Michigan Defense

Advantage

Efficiency

72

47

Michigan

Effective FG%

226

158

Michigan

Turnover %

130

254

Tennessee Big

Off. Reb %

12

67

Tennessee

FTA/FGA

117

34

Michigan

  • Seeing as how both teams are evenly matched in terms of straight offense and defense, there are three factors that will determine which team gets to face Duke in round two: (a) rebounds, (b) free throws, and (c) BCI. I would bet money that the team with ending the game with the upper hand in at least two of those three factors wins the game. 
  • The other big factor? Field goal percentage, mainly that from behind the three point line. Be it through hitting a good number of them and/or getting Tennessee to take and miss a lot of them, Michigan can win this game using the arc to their advantage if the Vols manage to draw more fouls and grab more rebounds.

Final Verdict

This game, along with 80% of the other first round games, will probably be close for 40 minutes. Fans of either team should expect an ugly, defensive-minded battle with a chance at trying to slay the Blue Devils on the line. I'm really flip flopping on who to pick for this game, but I will go with Michigan winning 60-58 on this one. Here's to hoping both teams get super performances from the starters and this turns into a 75-73 type of game, but I highly doubt that. That said, whether it is ugly and slow or high-scoring and fast-paced, Michigan vs. Tennessee should be an exciting match-up to watch in the first round of the tournament.

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