March Madness Round 64 Preview
Wright State vs. Tennessee
Third-seeded Tennessee looks to make a splash in the NCAA Tournament when it faces No. 14 seed Wright State in the first round of the South Regional on Thursday in Dallas, Texas. The Volunteers won over 20 games in the regular season for the first time since 2013-14 before advancing to the SEC Tournament final where they suffered a 77-72 loss to Kentucky on Sunday, and hope to live up to their lofty seed in their first-ever meeting with the Raiders.
“To have the kind of year to put yourself in position to play in the tournament is in itself a great accomplishment,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told reporters. “I’m really proud of the guys to put us in that position.” Wright State won three straight games en route to the Horizon League Tournament title and clinched its first NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years. The Raiders set a school record with 25 wins, but have dropped their last three meetings with SEC opponents by an average margin of 13 points and hope to buck the trend by notching their first NCAA Tournament win in program history. “It will be my job to bring them back down to earth and then get them to really believe it can happen,” Wright State coach Scott Nagy told reporters. “I’ve seen teams at our level do it.”
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT WRIGHT STATE (25-9): Grant Benzinger was named the Most Valuable Player of the Horizon League Tournament after averaging 14 points and 9.6 rebounds in victories over Green Bay, Milwaukee and Cleveland State. Benzinger led the way with 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals in the 74-57 win against the Vikings in the championship game while Cole Gentry and Jaylon Hall each added 11 points. Loudon Love was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 14.6 points and 10.3 rebounds, including nine points in the final, to set a freshman record for points in a season previously held by Bill Edwards in 1990.
ABOUT TENNESSEE (25-8): Junior forward Admiral Schofield was named to the All-SEC Tournament team after averaging 17 points and 8.3 rebounds over three games. Schofield scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the loss to Kentucky in the title game to notch his third double-double of the season while Grant Williams, who was named the SEC Player of the Year, added 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. Jordan Bone tallied 12 points and reigning SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner scored 10, but it wasn’t enough as the Volunteers were held to 37.1 percent shooting.
1. Tennessee has won six of its last seven games.
2. Love has posted 14 double-doubles this season.
3. The winner will play Miami or Loyola-Chicago in the second round Saturday.