Tennessee Basketball: 3 keys to beat Florida Atlantic in Sweet 16 matchup

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Tennessee Basketball

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – MARCH 18: Head coach Rick Barnes of the Tennessee Basketball (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

On February 28, Zakai Zeigler tore his ACL in Tennessee Basketball’s win over Arkansas. Despite that win, the Volunteers went 5-7 in their last 12 games, heading into the NCAA Tournament on an apparent downswing and without their star point guard.

Despite the seemingly bleak ending to the regular season and SEC Tournament, Rick Barnes has rallied the Vols. Instead of playing without Zeigler, they’re playing for Zeigler.

Seeding aside, Tennessee’s win over Duke in the round of 32 was considered an upset not just because the Blue Devils were the betting favorite, but because of the apparent trajectory of both teams. Duke had won 10 games in a row and was a trendy pick to make the Final Four, but Tennessee physically dominated the Blue Devils for 40 minutes. It was an old-school, physical, defensive battle. In other words, it was the stuff Rick Barnes undoubtedly dreams about.

Tennessee is headed to its second Sweet 16 in the last four NCAA Tournaments. In 2019, the Vols lost to Purdue in what was arguably the game of the tournament. Both teams traded clutch shots, but Carsen Edwards’ shot-making won the night.

This time around, Tennessee is the favorite in its matchup, facing 9-seed Florida Atlantic. The Owls might not be a familiar face in March, but they didn’t make the Sweet 16 by accident. Their 33-3 overall record is no joke. Dusty May’s squad has earned its spot under the bright lights in Madison Square Garden, where Thursday’s game will take place.

Here are three keys for Tennessee to stave off the Owls’ Cinderella run and make their first Elite Eight since 2010.

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