It’s time for the Tennessee Volunteers to switch gears and turn the page into the NCAA Tournament after an abysmal SEC Championship game. After Sunday’s events, the Big Orange drew the No. 2 seed in the south region and their first-round opponent is the 15th seed Colgate Raiders of the Patriot League.
Let’s quickly dive into this matchup that will take place on Friday afternoon:
During the course of their Patriot League slate, the Raiders boasted a record of 13-5 in conference play, tied with rival Bucknell for the best record in the conference. There has been some ebb and flow during the 2018-2019 campaign for the Raiders. They suffered a bad loss at the start of the season to lowly NJIT. Then, they were taken down by double digits by the likes
Colgate ended their season with a bang, winning 11 straight ballgames and capping things off by defeating Bucknell in their conference tournament championship. Colgate handled the Bison rather easily in the title match, winning 94-80. Overall, Colgate is heading into the big dance with a 24-10 record and they’re playing well.
The Raiders certainly don’t look intimidating getting off the bus but they could pose some problems for the Vols. Specifically with their three-point shooting ability. As a collective squad, they hover around the 39-percent mark when shooting from long range. They have three players who are knocking down over 40-percent of their shots from downtown. Those three guys are junior forward Rapolas Ivanauskas (43.4%), forward Will Rayman (43.2%) and guard Jack Ferguson (41.5%).
Make no mistake about it, Colgate will let it fly from all over the floor. As a team, they’ve shot 786 threes throughout the year and made 305 of those attempts.
Colgate’s primary threat is Ivanauskas, who leads the squad in points (16.4 per game) and rebounds (7.9 per game). And to boot, the Raiders have been knocking down 74-percent of their shots from the charity stripe.
As we all saw in both losses to Auburn, one of the Vols’ bugaboos this season has been perimeter defense. Rick Barnes’ squad has allowed multiple prolific three-point shooting teams to get hot and stay in games that they probably shouldn’t have. And there’s a decent chance of that happening on Friday. The only way Colgate stays competitive is if they knock down a barrage of threes and UT must be extremely mindful of this defensively.
Thankfully, Colgate has rarely played teams with the size and physicality of Tennessee, so I would expect that to factor into Colgate’s ability to hit threes and operate in general.
Colgate will be playing with house money, so I would guess they’ll hit some shots and stay within reach for at least a portion of the game. But in the end, the Vols will be too much for the Raiders to handle. Look for Grant Williams to have a monster outing against Colgate’s lack of size and strength. I also expect Kyle Alexander to feast on the boards in this one. UT rolls.