The Vols’ last game of the regular season didn’t turn out like they’d hoped, as they fell to the Auburn Tigers, 84-80. That, combined with LSU’s win over Vanderbilt resulted in LSU winning (for now — it may end up getting asterisked) the SEC Regular Season Championship with a 16-2 record.
It’s better to be disappointed now than two weeks from now, and this game can serve as a good, hard lesson to learn. The team made history this regular season, and yet when it came down to the last game, it couldn’t claim the thing that really mattered. The good news is that that wasn’t the final but the mid-term, and if the Vols can take that lesson into the NCAA Tournament, they can still ace the class.
The game against the Tigers could have turned out differently, of course, for a variety of reasons. Here’s a closer look at the outcome from a four-factors perspective.
In the preview, we said that we expected the following:
- The Vols would shoot well and have some negative impact on Auburn’s usual shooting percentage.
- Tennessee would have a few more turnovers than usual (11.2) and Auburn would have about its average of 12.8.
- Both teams would get more than their averages on the offensive boards. Tennessee’s average was 10.1, and Auburn’s was 12.53.
- Tennessee would earn a few more trips to the free throw line than usual (20.4), and Auburn would get somewhere around its average of 19.3.
- Tennessee had to win on shooting percentage and had to keep turnovers, offensive rebounding, and free throw rate even.
Where it went according to plan
On the offensive boards, Tennessee did get a few more than its average of 10.1 as expected by netting 15. The Tigers should have gotten more than their average of 12.53, too, but they got only 7.
Where it went wrong
It’s really not that everything went terribly wrong. It’s just that nearly everything went a little bit wrong.
The Vols’ offense didn’t shoot poorly, but they weren’t up to their season standards. They shot 47.5% from the field (49.9% for the season) and 32.1% from three (35.2% for the season).
Meanwhile, the defense did not only not hold Auburn to below its average shooting percentage,
The numbers suggested that Tennessee would end up with more turnovers than usual (11.2) in this game just because Auburn is really good at forcing them. That happened, as they turned the ball over 13 times. The surprising part to me is that Auburn had only 5 turnovers in this game despite averaging 12.8 per game. Tennessee’s not especially good at creating turnovers, and Auburn suddenly decided it wasn’t Christmas anymore.
Based on their opponents’ defensive numbers, the Vols should have gotten more trips to the free throw line than usual (20.4), and the Tigers should have gotten about their average of 19.3. Instead, the Vols got less than their average (16) while the Tigers got more (24). This is almost certainly a result of taking the tasty three-point bait instead of doing what they do with Grant Williams and an inside-out game.
Based on their season-long statistical resumes, the Vols had two main goals against Auburn: (1) keep the game even in turnovers, o-rebounds, and free throw rate; and (2) outshoot the Tigers. They won on offensive