Hoops Central: #4 Tennessee vs. #9 Florida Atlantic

Published 1:37 pm Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Following a pair of wins to open NCAA Tournament play last week in Orlando, the fourth-seeded Tennessee basketball team is set to compete in the Sweet Sixteen against No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic Thursday at approximately 9 p.m. inside Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Fans can catch Thursday’s game on TBS or online through March Madness Live. Brian Anderson (play-by-play), Jim Jackson (analyst) and Allie LaForce (reporter) will have the call.

Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp calling the action.

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Tennessee (25-10) advanced to the ninth Sweet Sixteen in program history by defeating No. 13 seed Louisiana and No. 5 seed Duke last week in Orlando. Most recently in the win over the Blue Devils, Olivier Nkamhoua exploded for a career-high-tying 27 points—23 of which came in the second half—while Santiago Vescovi added 14 points, five assists and five rebounds as Tennessee secured its first regional semifinal appearance since 2019.

Saturday’s win over Duke also gave Tennessee its 25th win of the season—marking the fourth season under head coach Rick Barnes that the Vols have reached the 25-win plateau. No other head coach in program history has reached 25 wins more than twice.

The winner of Thursday’s game advances to Saturday’s Elite Eight in Madison Square Garden against the winner of No. 3 seed Kansas State and No. 7 seed Michigan State.

• Tennessee defeated FAU, 81-62, in Knoxville on Dec. 16, 2015, in the only previous meeting between these programs.
• Rick Barnes owns a 1-0 career head coaching record vs. FAU, and he is 22-1 all-time against current members of Conference USA.
• Tennessee AD Danny White and FAU AD Brian White are siblings. Their father, Kevin White, was the longtime AD at Duke (retired in 2021).
•  The Vols are 5-1 against teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll this season but are 1-2 vs. teams ranked No. 25 at tipoff.
• None of Barnes’ 53 previous NCAA Tournament games took place in New York. But in 1994, he led Providence to the Big East Conference Tournament title at Madison Square Garden.
• Tennessee has advanced past the Sweet Sixteen only once, beating Ohio State in 2010 before falling to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

• In its two NCAA Tournament games thus far, Tennessee has allowed just 53.5 points per game.
• Per KenPom.com, the Vols lead the country in defensive efficiency (87.0 points per 100 possessions).
• Tennessee also leads the nation in 3-point defense (.264) while ranking third nationally in both field-goal defense (.372) and scoring defense (57.8 ppg).
• Only five teams have reached the 70-point mark against these Vols.
• Tennessee is a perfect 22-0 this season when it holds its opponent to fewer than 60 points.
• The Vols haven’t played with the rotation fully healthy since Feb. 8.
• With Tennessee’s second-round triumph over Duke, Rick Barnes tied College Basketball Hall of Famer Lou Henson for 15th place on the all-time Division I coaching wins list (779 wins).
This is the fourth time during the Barnes era that the Vols have earned a seed of No. 4 or better in the Big Dance.
• This is Tennessee’s fourth 25-win season under Barnes. The program has seven in its history.

• Should Tennessee advance to the Elite Eight, the Vols would face either third-seeded Kansas State or seventh-seeded Michigan State. In Tennessee’s only previous Elite Eight appearance (2010), UT fell to the Spartans in St. Louis.
• The Vols trail the all-time series with the Spartans, 2-5. And Rick Barnes owns a 4-5 coaching record vs. Michigan State.
• When Barnes’ 2003 Texas team advanced to the Final Four, it did so by defeating No. 7 seed Michigan State in the Elite Eight, 85-76, at the Alamodome.
• In head-to-head matchups with MSU head coach Tom Izzo, Barnes owns a 4-5 record. All nine meetings took place during Barnes’ tenure at Texas.
• Tennessee hosted Michigan State for a closed scrimmage on Oct. 23.
• Tennessee is 2-0 all-time against Kansas State, with home wins in 2014 and 2017. Barnes owns a 13-11 coaching record vs. K-State.

• Florida Atlantic (33-3) earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament after winning the regular season and tournament titles in Conference USA. The Owls are riding a current nine-game win streak.
• FAU finished the season ranked No. 13 in the NET rankings and are currently ranked No. 21 by KenPom—second-highest of the four remaining teams in the East Region.
• FAU head coach Dusty May was named C-USA Coach of the Year, while sophomore guards Johnell Davis (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Alijah Martin (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) were first-team All-C-USA selections. Sophomore center Vladislav Goldin (10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) was third-team All-C-USA.
• The Owls and Vols faced three common opponents this season—Ole Miss, Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. FAU went 2-1 against those opponents, while Tennessee went 3-1.

• Tennessee’s director of athletics, Danny White, played college basketball at both Towson (1998-2000) and Notre Dame (2000-02).
• Danny’s older brother, Mike White, played basketball at Ole Miss and is now the head coach at Georgia. Their brother, Brian White, is the AD at FAU.
• Brian has been the Vice President and AD at FAU since March of 2018. He hired men’s basketball coach Dusty May during his first year in Boca Raton.
• Danny’s Vols reached the Sweet Sixteen by defeating Duke, which is where his father served as AD from 2008-21.

• Tennessee owns an all-time record of 10-19 in the state of New York, dating to its debut there on Jan. 27, 1937 (a 30-24 loss at Long Island).
• In New York City, the Vols are 8-18 overall. Earlier this season, Tennessee beat 13th-ranked Maryland, 56-53, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Dec. 11).
• The Vols are 7-9 all-time at the current Madison Square Garden.
• Injured Tennessee sophomore Zakai Zeigler is from nearby Wyandanch on Long Island. Freshman forward Tobe Awaka hails from Hyde Park.
• Tennessee has produced five basketball All-Americans from New York: Ed Wiener (Brooklyn), Ernie Grunfeld (Forest Hills), Bernard King (Brooklyn), Howard Wood (East Hampton) and current Philadelphia 76er Tobias Harris (Dix Hills).

• Moments before Tennessee took the floor to face Duke in a second-round showdown Saturday, Vols associate head coach Justin Gainey told the Vols, “They don’t want to get muddy. We live in the mud.”
• The result? In the words of reporters, Tennessee “bullied,” “punked” and “battered” the Blue Devils while holding Duke to just 52 points—tying for the fewest points ever by that program in an NCAA Tournament game.
• Olivier Nkamhoua’s career-high-tying 27 points—23 of which came in the second half—tied his career-high set on Jan. 28 against Texas and came on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. From the 8:43 mark to the 4:16 mark of the second half, Nkamhoua scored 13 straight points for the Vols. In total, he scored 17 of Tennessee’s final 19 points.

• The Vols are making their 25th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Orange own a 25-25 (.500) NCAA Tournament record.
• The Vols are 1-0 in the First Four, 15-7 in first-round games, 8-9 in second-round games, 1-0 in the (short-lived) third-round, 1-7 in regional semifinals, 0-1 in regional finals and 0-1 in the now-defunct regional consolation round.
• This is the program’s fifth NCAA berth and second Sweet Sixteen appearance under eighth-year head coach Rick Barnes.
• Tennessee’s 25 NCAA Tournament berths are fourth-most among SEC programs.
• Since 2010, among SEC programs, only Kentucky (32) and Florida (19) have won more NCAA Tournament games than Tennessee (12).

• This marks Tennessee’s ninth Sweet Sixteen appearance. The Vols previously competed in the Round of 16 in 1967, 1981, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2019.
• The Vols made their deepest tournament run in 2010, when they beat San Diego State (Kawhi Leonard), Ohio and Ohio State (Evan Turner) to advance to the Elite Eight, where they fell to Michigan State (Draymond Green).

•  Three former Vols have figured prominently in the history of the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden.
•  Bernard King (native of Brooklyn), Ernie Grunfeld (native of Forest Hills) and Allan Houston each enjoyed years of success for the Knicks in roles as players and in the front office.
• Bernard King — Ranks second in Knicks franchise history with a 26.5 career scoring average … Led the Knicks in scoring three times, including a club record 32.9 points per game in 1984-85 … Owns the franchise record for single-season field-goal percentage (57.2 in 1983-84) … On Christmas Day 1984, he scored a Knicks franchise record 60 points against New Jersey … Holds the franchise record for points in a playoff game (46 in back-to-back games against Detroit in 1984) … Two-time All-NBA Team selection (1984 and 1985) while playing for the Knicks … Was one of seven all-time Knicks greats honored on Legends Awards Night at Madison Square Garden on May 27, 2009.
• Ernie Grunfeld — Spent 17 seasons with the Knicks as a player (1983-86), coach (1989-90) and broadcaster before eventually settling in as general manager (1991-99), where he built teams that appeared in the NBA Finals in 1995 and 1999 … later served as president and GM of the Wizards.
• Allan Houston — Spent nine of his 12 professional seasons with the Knicks, finishing his career as one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters … Fourth all-time leading scorer in Knicks history with 11,165 career points and is second with 921 3-pointers … Team captain for six seasons (1999-2005) … His running one-hander with 0.8 seconds to play beat top-seeded Miami in game five of the first round of the playoffs and set the Knicks on the path to the 1999 NBA Finals … In 2001, he set a club record with his 90.9 free throw percentage … Now works as the Knicks’ Vice President for Player Leadership & Development.

• Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes has guided four different programs to a total of 27 berths in The Big Dance. He led Providence and Clemson to three berths each before guiding Texas to 16 tournament appearances in 17 years. This is his fifth appearance with the Vols.
• Barnes in 2018 became the 13th head coach ever to lead four different programs to the Division I NCAA Tournament.
• Barnes has led his teams to eight Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights and one Final Four, in 2003.
• In Tennessee’s 113-year hardwood history, the Volunteers have made just 25 NCAA Tournament appearances (two fewer than Barnes).
• From 1995 through 2016, every player Barnes coached for four years made at least three trips to the NCAA Tournament. This season’s Tennessee seniors are making their third NCAA Tournament appearance—this would have been their fourth had the 2020 tournament not been cancelled due to COVID.

• Rick Barnes is just 21 wins shy of reaching 800 Division I victories for his career. That club currently includes just 10 names, with Bill Self (791) and John Calipari (790) soon to join that group.
• Barnes currently ranks tied for 15th on the all-time Division I list with 779 wins—two shy of tying the late Lute Olson (781) for 14th place.

• Tennessee under head coach Rick Barnes has logged several wins over college basketball “blue bloods.”
• The list of highly successful programs that have suffered losses to the Vols dating to 2015-16 includes Kentucky (nine times), Kansas (twice), Gonzaga, Purdue, North Carolina, Maryland, Arizona and, most recently, Duke.