Tennessee Basketball finds itself in the midst of an impressive season. Sitting at 9-1 (3-1 in SEC), the Volunteers are in prime position for a two-seed in the 2021 Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. Still, regardless of current success, Tennessee possesses one key flaw that limits its long-term potential.
First and foremost, Tennesse is a team that stresses effective play on defense. In that, they are successful. On average, opponents record just 63 points per game against the Volunteers, ranking Tennesse third in the nation in that category. They make it challenging for opposing teams to get off uncontested shots, reducing their efficiency all over their court. Additionally, the Volunteers force a good amount of turnovers, limiting more opportunities for point production.
That said, Tennesse’s ability to shut down opposing offenses can only get them so far. Averaging 76.8 points each contest, the Volunteers struggle to rely on sheer offensive ability to pull off wins.
Furthermore, most of their offensive production comes from inside the three-point arc. Although efficient with their two-point production, boasting the fourth-best 2P% in the nation, they struggle to contribute consistently from three, cashing in on an average of 6.1 of their 17.5 opportunities each game.
In today’s brand of basketball, success from behind the arc is a must. Teams generate a bounty of opportunities, hiking up the score if they are connecting. Yes, the likelihood of cashing-in on a three-pointer is less than generating two-point shots. However, that leads to teams generating more three-point opportunities instead of shying away from them.
Unfortunately, the Tennessee Volunteers struggle to cash-in on a lot of three-pointers. However, that is only part of the problem. The other part of the issue is that they are not taking enough three-point shot opportunities. As previously mentioned, Tennessee only generates 17.5 three-point shots per game. Remarkably, that ranks them 312th in that category. That simply is not going to cut it against offensively gifted opponents, regardless of how talented the Volunteers defense is.
The issue with not having the three-ball in your arsenal is that it typically turns many games into dog fights. Against the quality competition, Tennessee will find itself in many closely contested battles with fewer opportunities to separate themselves. Take, for example, the Alabama game. The two teams were neck-and-neck throughout the first half. However, once the Crimson Tide started connecting from three in the second half, Tennessee could not keep pace. Alabama cashed-in five times from beyond the arc and the Volunteers were done for.
There is no denying that the Tennessee Volunteers are a quality basketball team. They play an excellent defensive brand of basketball and are a joy for nostalgic fans to watch. Still, that brand of basketball comes with limitations in today’s game. Sometimes you have to be prepared to enter contests where you are essentially going shot for shot with an opponent. Tennessee will struggle in those contests against strong teams if they cannot get the three-ball going.
Come March Madness, Tennessee’s seed will likely be high. Currently, the team projects to be a two-seed in most bracketology models. Still, they run the risk of falling victim to an upset if they run into an opponent efficient from three-point land.