Matchup of the Opposites

When Tennessee and Ohio State meet for the Midwest region semi-final Friday night in St. Louis, it could be the most diverse pairing of any match in this weekend's Sweet Sixteen action. The two teams are looking back on distinctly different seasons, even program histories. Go "Inside" for our take on the match up.

When Tennessee and Ohio State meet for the Midwest region semi-final Friday night in St. Louis, it could be the most diverse pairing of any match in this weekend's Sweet Sixteen action.

The two teams are looking back on distinctly different seasons, even program histories.

The Buckeyes are looking to advance to their second Elite Eight in four years, their last coming in 2007, when Ohio State marched all the way to a national championship appearance.

The Volunteers are aiming at their first Elite Eight appearance in program history.

Head coach Bruce Pearl's 2007 Tennessee squad came within two points of doing just that before falling short to none other than Ohio State.

This season, the scarlet and gray won both their regular season conference championship and conference tournament.

The 2010 Volunteers finished third in their division, while getting smacked in the conference tournament semi-finals by the Kentucky Wildcats in the worst loss of the Bruce Pearl era.

Yet despite history and lopsided losses, version five of Bruce Pearl's Tennessee squad has been resilient if anything.

The resilience was especially apparent following a January 1 arrest of four scholarship players, which resulted in the dismissal of first-team All Conference player Tyler Smith. Three other players were suspended for nearly five weeks.

The roster shake-up led to nine different starting rotations for the Volunteers, as Tennessee players such as Steven Pearl saw their average minutes (4.3 to 11) more than double from last season.

Perhaps no team in this year's NCAA tournament has utilized as many players on its roster as the Tennessee Volunteers.

For example, UT's bench outscores its opponents benches 23.1 to 12.4 points per game.

Yet the distribution across the roster can limit star player potential, which is of no shortage with the Buckeyes.Juniors Jon Diebler, David Lighty and Evan Turner, as well as sophomore William Buford, all average between 34 and 37 minutes per game. Those four players also all average over 12.8 points per outing, serving as the bulk of the Buckeye's punch.

In comparison, Tennessee is the only team in the remaining field of 16 that does not have a player who averages more than 30 minutes per outing. The closest to that number is sophomore guard Scotty Hopson, who sits at 27.7 minutes per game.

Minutes could be the determining factor when these two teams meet Friday night.,/P>

Thad Matta's squad will need to keep it's starting five out of foul trouble, while maintaining the intensity of an ever-revolving Tennessee roster.

The fresh legs could give the Volunteers the type of up-tempo, defensive oriented advantage needed to beat the Buckeyes. It could also keep the Big Orange from delivering any consistent scorers, which could get ugly if Turner and Diebler open up a scoring spree.

If the Volunteers can attack the paint early and pick up fouls, the Buckeyes could be forced to rotate an uncomfortable assortment of players.

However this Ohio State team knows how to play with a short rotation, they've done it all season, and they will avoid the foul trouble for the most part.

Either way, it will be a showcase of two talented teams, displaying different ends of the spectrum in game-plan and style play.

One side is backed by history. One side is facing history.


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