What to Know: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 Colgate

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    (Photo via AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

    Tennessee is set to take on Colgate in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, and the two teams will be facing off for the third time ever when they take the court on Friday afternoon.

    The No. 2 seed Vols (29-5, 15-3 SEC) play No. 15 seed Colgate (24-10, 13-5 Patriot League) at approximately 2:45 Eastern on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Colgate earned an automatic bid into the tournament after winning the Patriot League tournament, and the Vols earned an at-large bid as a No. 2 seed. It’s only the third time in school history that UT has been a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    Both the Vols and Raiders have played each other in men’s basketball before, but it’s been nearly 60 years since they last tipped off. Colgate is, surprisingly, 2-0 against Tennessee, winning on a neutral court in the regular season in both 1955 and 1960.

    This year will mark the first time the two programs have faced-off in the NCAA Tournament, and the Raiders will look to play spoiler to Tennessee and improve to 3-0 against the Vols.

    Colgate has won 11-straight games heading into Friday’s game. The Vols lost to Auburn in the SEC Tournament Finals and are just 6-4 in their last 10 games after starting the season 23-1.

    For the Raiders, this year marks the first time since 1996 that they’ve made it into the NCAA Tournament, and it’s only their third-ever appearance. This season marks the second-straight year the Vols have made it into the NCAA Tournament and is their 22nd overall appearance in the Big Dance.

    Here’s a look at everything you need to know about Tennessee’s match-up with Colgate in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

    Lights Out

    Colgate has been a force from behind the three-point arc this season. The Raiders are connecting on 38.8 percent of their threes this season, which is the 13th-best percentage in all of Division I college basketball.

    But they’ve been even more deadly from distance as of late.

    Over their last 10 games, Colgate has made 48.9 percent of their threes. They’ve connected on over 50 percent of their three-pointers in six of their last 10 games. The Raiders have made at least nine three-pointers in all 10 of those games and have made over 10 threes in eight of those 10 contests.

    Tennessee, meanwhile, has given up at least nine three-pointers in four of their last seven games. Teams are connecting on 35.7 percent of their threes against the Vols in that stretch.

    The Raiders boast three different players who make at least 40 percent of their threes on the season. Rapolas Ivanauskas connects on 43.4 percent of his threes, Will Rayman makes 43.2 percent of his triples, and Jack Ferguson hits 41.5 percent of his three-pointers.

    On the season, Colgate is shooting 23.1 threes per game, and they make an average of nine three-pointers a game. One way they get all those threes and find themselves with so many good looks is through excellent ball movement. The Raiders are averaging 15.7 assists per game this season. They’re led by sophomore point guard Jordan Burns, who averages 5.8 assists per game to go along with his 15.8 points a contest.

    Best in the League 

    Colgate features two players and a head coach that won awards in the Patriot League this past season.

    Rapolas Ivanauskas was named the Patriot League Player of the Year, head coach Matt Langel was named the Coach of the Year in the conference, and Tucker Richardson won the Freshman of the Year in the league.

    Ivanauskas is a transfer from Northwestern who is a dangerous mismatch for most teams. He’s a 6-foot-10 post player who can connect from deep and is a great offensive weapon for the Raiders. He’s averaging 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds a game while shooting 52.3 percent from the field overall and 43.4 percent from three.

    Richardson is a versatile 6-foot-5 freshman who has scored in double figures 11 different times this season. He’s averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on the year.

    As for Langel, this year marks his 8th as the head coach of Colgate, and it’s the second-straight year he’s helped the Raiders to a record above .500 on the season. That’s the first time Colgate has had back-to-back seasons with a .500 or better record since the 2002-03 team finished 14-14 and the 2003-04 team finished 15-14.

    Colgate’s 24-10 record this season is their best record in school history. They eclipsed the school record for wins in a single season that they set last year when they went 19-14.

    An interesting history

    Speaking of Langel, he’s coached against Tennessee twice before, just not at Colgate.

    Before taking the head coaching job with the Raiders, Langel was an assistant coach at Temple. While there, he coached against the Vols in back-to-back years with the Owls. Tennessee hosted Temple in November of  2007 and won 80-63. The next season, Temple hosted the Vols and toppled Tennessee by a score of 88-72.

    Langel has also faced-off with Barnes, though this will be the first time he’s faced Barnes as a head coach.

    When Langel was an assistant at Penn, the Quakers played Barnes’ Texas Longhorns in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Texas prevailed by a score of 60-52 as the two-seed over No. 15 seed Penn.

    All-time, Langel is 1-1 vs. the Vols as an assistant coach and 0-1 vs. Barnes.

    Breaking Out of Slumps

    Tennessee had some players in prolonged slumps down the stretch of the regular season, but now it looks like at least two of them have finally broken out of their funks. And it’s come at the perfect time.

    Both Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner were struggling coming into the home stretch of the regular season. Bowden averaged just 3.8 points a game in a four-game stretch from February 16th through February 27th, and the Vols went 2-2 in that stretch. Bowden missed all 11 of his three-pointers in that four-game spell as well. Turner averaged only 4.6 points a game in a five-game stretch from March 2nd through March 16th. That stretch included Tennessee’s first two games of the SEC Tournament. He made just two of his 20 threes in that span.

    Now, however, both players appear to be out of their slumps.

    Bowden scored nine points and finally hit a three in Tennessee’s dominating win against Kentucky in Knoxville, and he’s played much better since then. In his last five games, Bowden is averaging 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a game and is hitting 47.6 percent of his three-pointers.

    For Turner, hitting the go-ahead three against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament seems to have sparked him. He finished that contest with just seven points, but he was 3-of-9 from the field and followed up that game with his best performance of the season. He posted a season-high 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting against Auburn in the SEC Tournament Finals. He nailed four of his six three-pointers, and those four makes from distance totaled the amount of threes he had made in his seven previous games combined.

    Unfortunately for Tennessee, Turner was essentially the only Vol who played well against Auburn. But both he and Bowden have broken out of their slumps at the right time.

    Not Good Against High Major Teams

    Colgate has faced three teams in high major conferences this season and another team from the American Athletic Conference. They didn’t have much luck against any of those opponents, though.

    The Raiders played Syracuse and Pittsburgh of the ACC, Penn State of the Big Ten, and South Florida of the AAC this year, and they lost all four of those games by double-digits. Syracuse won by 21 points, Pitt won by 14, Penn State won by 11 points, and South Florida won by 10.

    Out of all those schools, only Syracuse ended up making the NCAA Tournament. The Orange went 20-13 overall and are an eight-seed in this year’s tournament. South Florida was 20-13 overall, but both Pitt (14-19) and Penn State (14-18) finished the season with losing records.



    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.