If Tennessee basketball keeps surviving March Madness, it’ll be the ugly way | Estes

So far, so … good?

Well, no. This wasn’t good. Wasn’t bad, either.

I’d call it routine, actually. Quintessential Tennessee basketball in 2022-23.

Or as coach Rick Barnes told CBS cameras after surviving the first round of the NCAA Tournament, “Not very pretty, but we found a way to get it done. Defensively, we were really good.”

That’s Tennessee’s season, folks, narrowed down to 17 words.

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In holding off 13th-seeded Louisiana 58-55, the fourth-seeded Vols (24-10) were bad enough offensively to keep things interesting until the end. Yet they were outstanding enough defensively to keep dancing past an uneven performance that, if we’re honest, won’t scare the next opponent in the slightest.

Saturday’s second-round matchup against a scorching Duke team looms even more ominously for Tennessee than it did before Thursday’s first-round game in Orlando, Florida.

The Blue Devils barely broke a sweat in cruising past Oral Roberts by 23. As for Tennessee, even when Thursday’s opener was going beautifully, it was an ugly scene.

None of the Vols scored more than a dozen points. They had a ton of turnovers early, missed a bunch of foul shots and almost blew an 18-point lead in the game’s final 12 minutes.