Despite being a popular upset in the making prediction, Head Coach Rick Barnes and his Tennessee Volunteers are heading to the second round after defeating the Louisana Rajun Cajuns ( final score.) Sure, Lousiana showed a little fight cutting the Tennessee lead to six with 2:29 remaining in the game. Head Coach Rick Barnes called a quick timeout to calm down his Volunteers, leading to two Tennessee free throws and extending the Volunteers’ lead to 56-48 with 2:23 remaining in the game. Lousiana would pick up a careless offensive foul on the following possession allowing Tennessee to shoot two free throws; Tyreke Key would miss both, allowing Lousiana to remain in the game.
Up 56-48 with 1:00 remaining, Tennessee would allow Lousiana to nail a three-pointer, further closing the gap to 56-51. Tyreke Key would miss a mid-range jump shot, leading to a foul on the other end and sending Lousiana to the charity stripe. Missing the first and making the second, it was a three-point game with about 23.1 seconds left.
Everybody in the gym knew Tennessee would have to hit free throws if the Volunteers were to advance to play the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday in the second round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Louisiana would foul Josiah- Jordan James. James would miss the first free throw and make the second, making it 57-53 Tennessee with 9 seconds remaining. Tennessee would survive the scare from Louisiana 58-55.
Despite the close win, Tennessee was led in scoring by Jahmai Mashack with 11 points.
For a win on Saturday against Duke, Tennessee will need more guys to step up to provide the Volunteers with options to rely on. Duke will not be easy out; Duke came into the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament winners of the 2023 ACC Tournament and, to many, one of the hottest teams in basketball. Tennessee will need to knock down shots and avoid letting Duke get into a rhythm. Not sure about the game time, but a win over Duke on Saturday and the Volunteers would return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2019. Tennessee and Duke last met in 2011, where the Blue Devils beat the Volunteers 77-67.