Tennessee-Iowa four-factors preview: Play inside-out and defend from another zip code

Tennessee-Colgate four-factors preview: Colgate’s got the shooting, but not the kryptonite

The 2-seed Tennessee Volunteers take on the 15-seed Colgate Raiders Friday at 2:45 ET in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, and the winner advances to meet either Cincinnati or Iowa sometime Sunday.

In the history of 2/15 matchups, the 2-seeds hold a 128-8 (94%) record, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the Vols to advance. But here’s the thing. The NCAA Tournament is designed not only to funnel the best teams to each other in the late rounds, match them up head-to-head, and see who survives. It’s also designed to give a ton of lower-seeded teams the opportunity to avdance by upsetting better teams. So the goal for good teams isn’t just to coast to the second weekend and then see what you can do. You also have to avoid upsets to lower-seeded teams along the way.

Those upsets often come in the form of bad matchups, so let’s take a look at the teams’ respective four factors numbers to see if there’s any reason to be worried.

Four Factors: Straight-Up

Effective FG%

  • Tennessee 55.3 (No. 20)
  • Colgate 55.9 (No. 14)

Prior opponents:

  • Auburn 53.9 (No. 51)
  • Mississippi State 54.6 (No. 36)
  • Kentucky 53.6 (No. 59)
  • Ole Miss 53.5 (No. 64)
  • LSU: 52.7 (No. 93)
  • Vanderbilt: 50.3 (No. 198)
  • Kentucky: 52.8 (No. 93)

Conclusions: Watch out. These guys can shoot, and they’re better from the arc than from the field. The good news is that they don’t take an Auburn-ton of three-pointers, so this doesn’t appear to be Vols kryptonite. They average 9 made threes per game, so they’re not likely to hit 15 of them like we saw in the SEC Tournament championship game, but still, it’s a danger to avoid.

Turnover %

  • Tennessee 15.9 (No. 25)
  • Colgate 19.3 (No. 232)

Prior opponents:

  • Auburn 18.3 (No. 151)
  • Mississippi State 19.1 (No. 220)
  • Kentucky 18.7 (No. 185)
  • Ole Miss 18.7 (No. 172)
  • LSU 19.0 (No. 196)
  • Vanderbilt: 19.9 (No. 255)
  • Kentucky: 18.5 (No. 158)

Conclusions: Different game, same story. The paper says Tennessee protects the ball, and its opponent does not. That same story has recently too often ended with the Vols giving way too many turnovers, though, so . . . twist!

Offensive Rebound %

  • Tennessee 31.6 (No. 75) (Vols have been trending the right direction in this category)
  • Colgate 30.3 (No. 103)

Prior opponents:

  • Auburn 33.5 (No. 39)
  • Mississippi State 34.6 (No. 23)
  • Kentucky 37.9 (No. 4)
  • Ole Miss 31.9 (No. 64)
  • LSU 37.4 (No. 6)
  • Vanderbilt: 28.6 (No. 178)
  • Kentucky: 38.3 (No. 3)

Conclusions: Good news for the Vols here, as Colgate is not nearly as good at getting their own misses as Tennessee’s recent competition.

Free Throw Rate

  • Tennessee 33.4 (No. 175)
  • Colgate 28.9 (No. 285)

Prior opponents:

  • Auburn 30.9 (No. 245)
  • Mississippi State 33.0 (No. 188)
  • Kentucky 42.2 (No. 14)
  • Ole Miss 32.8 (No. 200)
  • LSU 39.8 (No. 29)
  • Vanderbilt: 44.8 (No. 7)
  • Kentucky: 41 (No. 22)

Conclusions: The good news here is that Colgate is, as you’d guess, neither Kentucky nor LSU. The bad news is that Auburn wasn’t, either.

Those are the straight-up comparisons of the teams’ respective averages in the four factors, but what about the fact that those numbers are impacted in any given game by the opponent?

Four Factors: Opponent impact

Effective FG%

When Tennessee has the ball

Tennessee’s EFG% is 55.3 (No. 20), while Colgate’s defense against that is 50.6 (No. 162). That’s about like Auburn. The Vols’ excellent EFG%, by the way, is built on two-pointers, not three-pointers.

When Colgate has the ball

The Raiders’ EFG% is 55.9 (No. 14), which makes them even better than Auburn in this category. Tennessee’s shooting defense is 47.4 (No. 35).

Conclusions

I know this is Colgate. I know this is a 2/15 matchup. And I know that Tennessee is like a 15-point favorite. But I don’t like this. At all.

Turnover %

When Tennessee has the ball

Tennessee’s turnover % is 15.9 (No. 25), while Colgate’s defensive counterpart to this category is 18.0 (No. 212).

When Colgate has the ball

Colgate’s turnover % is terrible at 19.3 (No. 232), but as we’ve been saying all year, Tennessee’s not especially good at forcing turnovers, either. The Vols’ number here is 18.2 (No. 188).

Conclusions

My new favorite soapbox is reminding folks that basketball is not bowling or golf. It’s not just you against you, it’s you against you and an opponent actively engaged in attempting to make you look bad. Tennessee failed on both counts last Sunday. They weren’t their best selves. But Auburn also had something to do with how poorly Tennessee played. The Tigers are especially good at creating turnovers, and that made the Vols look like they couldn’t even accomplish the most fundamental goals of basketball, like dribbling or passing to teammates.

All of that is to say this: If and when Tennessee gets beat in this year’s tournament, it’s going to fall to either (1) a great team, or (2) a team with the kryptonite composed of both terrific and abundant three-point shooting and an ability to create extra possessions through turnovers (and/or offensive rebounds). Colgate has the shooting ingredient, but without the ability to create turnovers, they don’t have the kryptonite.

Offensive Rebounding %

When Tennessee has the ball

Tennessee’s OR% is 31.6 (No. 75), while Colgate’s defense in that category is 26.9 (No. 113).

When Colgate has the ball

The Raiders’ OR% is 30.3 (No. 103), while the Vols’ defense in that category is 30.3 (No. 266).

Conclusions

From these numbers, I wouldn’t expect offensive rebounding to have much to say about the final outcome of this game.

Free Throw Rate

When Tennessee has the ball

Tennessee’s FT Rate is 33.4 (No. 175), while Colgate’s defense against that is 28.6 (No. 65). To the extent they defend, they do it without fouling much.

When Colgate has the ball

The Raiders’ FT Rate is 28.9 (No. 284), while Tennessee’s defense against that is 34.4 (No. 223).

Conclusions

This looks like a jump-shooting game to me.

Summary and Score Prediction

All signs point toward a game decided by shooting percentage. I’d be surprised if either offensive rebounding or free throw rate impacts the game very much on either side. Instead, this one looks like a game between two teams that can really shoot the ball well. While that’s disconcerting coming off two recent losses to a hot-shooting Auburn squad, the good news for the Vols is twofold: (1) Tennessee defends better than Colgate; and (2) unlike Auburn, Colgate doesn’t appear to have anything else (such as the ability to walk away with Sams Club-sized box of turnovers) to go along with their excellent shooting.

The goals for the Vols:

  1. Shoot as well as they usually do, which means shooting much more from the field than from the arc.
  2. Keep Colgate below its usual shooting efficiency by tightly defending all jump-shooters, especially those behind the arc.
  3. Don’t do anything uncharacteristic in any of the other categories.

KenPom gives Tennessee a 92% chance of winning this one and puts the score at Tennessee 83, Colgate 68.

Go Vols.

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Gavin Driskill
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Gavin Driskill

Given the preponderance of shooting that Colgate brings to the table, I’d expect to switch pretty much everything 1 through 4 and play pretty tight on the perimeter.

Leave Kyle in the paint, don’t overhelp, and run* the dang ball, Bobo**.

*take care of
**on offense

I’m nervous, too, but we’re better than them. If we’re paying attention, we should win this game.