Tennessee beat Iowa 78-65 in overtime in last night’s play-in game, earning an 11-seed in the traditional NCAA Tournament bracket of 64.
Despite Tennessee’s struggles with Iowa — not to mention the general indignity of having to participate in the play-in game — the Vols are big favourites to beat 6th-seeded UMass on Friday.
As an 11-seed, Tennessee is a heavier statistical favourite than three 5-seeds, three 6-seeds, and all four 7-seeds.
If you were looking strictly at advanced stats, you’d think Tennessee was one of the favourites to win it all. They have the 21st most efficient offensive in the country, and the 13th most efficient defence. Ken Pomeroy’s rating system says they’re the 9th-best team in the country. UMass is ranked 50th — the second-lowest ranking of any single-digit seed in the entire tournament.
But there’s a very good reason Tennessee had to play in a play-in game — they’re one of the most erratic teams in the tournament.
Tennessee beat Virginia by 35. They also lost to Texas A&M twice (ranked 116th in KenPom) and UTEP (ranked 100th). Based on ESPN’s variance ranking, they were just the 78th most consistent team in college basketball.
The beauty of the tournament is that any team can beat any other team on any given day. Tennessee embodies that cliche more than anyone.
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