No. 2 seed Tennessee (30-5) and No. 10 seed Iowa (23-11) will face-off on Sunday for a chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The two have met once before in the NCAA Tournament, and Tennessee beat the Hawkeyes in overtime in one of the “First Four” play-in games of the 2014 tournament.
This time, Iowa will be looking to pull off the big upset to get revenge on the Vols.
The Hawkeyes already have one upset under their belt as a double-digit seed this tournament, coming from behind to beat No. 7 seed Cincinnati 79-72 in the first round. Tennessee survived an upset bid by 15-seed Colgate in the first round, weathering the Raiders’ barrage of threes to prevail 77-70.
Now, the two teams will face-off with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.
Here’s a look at Sunday’s second round match-up by the numbers.
Sunday’s contest will mark the fifth time both Tennessee and Iowa have faced-off in men’s basketball. The Vols have won two-straight games against the Hawkeyes after Iowa won the first two meetings between the two programs. Iowa upset No. 4 Tennessee 64-59 in December of 1967 in Los Angeles and beat the Vols again in 1977 in December in Las Vegas by a score of 92-86. No. 6 Tennessee took down No. 23 Iowa 80-68 in Honolulu in December of 2000, and then Tennessee defeated Iowa in 2014 in the “First Four” play-in game of the NCAA Tournament, winning 78-65 in overtime. The Vols are 1-0 all-time against the Hawkeyes in the NCAA Tournament.
The Vols have played in the second round of the NCAA Tournament eight previous times since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and they’ve gone on to advance to the Sweet Sixteen five of those times. Tennessee lost two of their first three second round games, and last year the Vols’ loss in the second round to Loyola-Chicago ended a four-game winning streak Tennessee had in the second round of the tournament.
All-time in the NCAA Tournament, No. 2 seeds are just 35-22 when they play No. 10 seeds. That’s just a 61.4 percent winning percentage. Two-seeds actually have a better record against No. 7 seeds in the tournament, going 67-29 against those teams all-time (69.8 percent).
Tennessee has only ever played a 10-seed once before in the NCAA Tournament, and they won that contest. The Vols were a seven-seed in the 1980 tournament and took out No. 10 seed Furman by a score of 80-69 in the first round.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Iowa hasn’t defeated a No. 2 seed. The Hawkeyes are 0-4 against two-seed since 1985, and none of those contests have even been close. Iowa lost to No. 2 seed Duke 85-70 in 1991, 92-79 to No. 2 seed Kentucky in 2001, 87-68 to No. 2 seed Gonzaga in 2015, and 87-68 again to No. 2 seed Villanova in 2016. Iowa was a seven-seed in those four previous match-ups. This year, they’ll be a 10-seed taking on a No. 2 seed.
No. 2 seeds are 85-43 all-time in the second round of the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams, winning 66.4 percent of the time. That’s the second-highest percentage among any seeds, trailing only No. 1 seeds (85.9 percent).
Since 2000, Tennessee has made it to five Sweet Sixteens. The Vols have only earned 10 berths into the NCAA Tournament in that span (not counting this year), which means they’ve advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen in half of their appearances this millenium. Tennessee made it to the Elite Eight in 2010, marking the only time the Vols have actually won a game once they made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Though the Vols have made it to the Sweet Sixteen a good deal over the last 20 years, it’s been half a decade since they’ve advanced that far in the tournament. Tennessee’s last Sweet Sixteen appearance came in 2014 when the Vols played in the play-in game as an 11-seed then won two games in the field of 64 to face-off with Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen. The Wolverines defeated the Vols in a close contest, 73-71. Ironically, the Vols played Iowa in that tournament as well, defeating the Hawkeyes in that aforementioned play-in game.
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes hasn’t made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in over a decade. The last time he helped lead a team to the Round of 16 in the tournament was in 2008 when his Texas Longhorns squad made it to the Elite Eight. Barnes has been either one-and-done or eliminated in the second round in every NCAA Tournament appearance he’s made since then.
If you think it’s been a while since Rick Barnes has been to the Sweet Sixteen, try being an Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball fan. Iowa hasn’t made it to the Sweet Sixteen this millenium, failing to do so the last three times they’ve gotten to the second round. The last time Iowa made it to the Sweet Sixteen was in 1999 when they did so as a No. 5 seed.
Tennessee’s win over Colgate in the first round marked only the 27th time a No. 2 seed has beaten a No. 15 seed by just 10 points or fewer since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. It marked the first time since 2017 that a two-seed won by single digits over a 15-seed. That year, No. 2 Kentucky beat No. 15 Northern Kentucky by a score of 79-70. The Wildcats ended up making it to the Elite Eight before losing to No. 1 seed North Carolina by a score of 75-73.
Speaking of Kentucky’s run to the Elite Eight, 13 of those 27 two-seeds that beat a 15-seed by 10 points or less ended up making it to at least the Elite Eight in the same tournament. Of those 13, five ended up making it to the Final Four, and three (1987 Syracuse, 1995 Arkansas, 2003 Kansas) made it to the finals. None of those two-seeds ended up winning the national title, however.
Unfortunately for the Vols, they’re almost just as likely to advance to the Elite Eight as they are to lose in the second round based on history. Twelve of the 27 two-seeds that beat their 15-seed opponent by 10 points or fewer wound up losing their next game in the second round. Oddly enough, Iowa has been the opponent one of these two-seeds has faced in the second round two previous times. Both times, the Hawkeyes lost to those two-seeds, and those two-seeds ended up advancing to the Elite Eight.
One of the Vols’ biggest weaknesses this season has been guarding the three. Iowa is built to exploit that weakness, as they’ve made nine or more three-pointers in 16 of their 34 games this season. The Hawkeyes are 14-2 when they make at least nine threes this season, and they just made 11 shots from distance against Cincinnati in their first round upset over the Bearcats.
In Tennessee’s 35 previous games this season, they’ve allowed nine or more three-pointers in 14 of those contests. The Vols have gone back-to-back games where they’ve given up 15 made threes to their opponent. Auburn used that to win 84-64 in the SEC Tournament Finals, but Colgate fell short 77-70 on Friday in the first round. Surprisingly, Tennessee is 12-2 when giving up nine or more threes to their opponents.