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Ride or Fade: Rick Barnes and Tennessee in Sweet 16 vs. FAU

Should you go with history or the Vols in the Sweet 16 this year? We take a look at coach Barnes’ track record in the NCAA Tournament.

Duke v Tennessee
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Head coach Rick Barnes of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts against the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 18, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. Tennessee won 65-52.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Despite finishing fourth in the SEC, the Tennessee Volunteers (25-10, ranked No. 20 in the nation prior to the tourney) have impressed in 2022-23, especially since the postseason began. Yes, the Vols fell short in their conference tourney to a hit-and-miss Mizzou team, but since then, 4-seed Tennessee has rallied to blow by Louisiana and Duke at the Big Dance, setting up a dog fight with 9-seed Florida Atlantic in the East Region’s Sweet 16 round. Under the guidance of HC Rick Barnes in his eighth-year at Tennessee, should you ride or fade the Vols on Friday night?

At DraftKings Sportsbook, Tennessee is a 5-point favorite a few hours prior to tip-off. If you feel better about taking the Vols straight up, they are priced at -230 on the moneyline, while FAU reflects nearly a 2/1 payout in the same category. The point total at DraftKings Sportsbook is set rather low, showing 129.5 for these two sides.

Ride or Fade: Rick Barnes, Tennessee in Sweet 16 vs. FAU

Tennessee ATS: FAU +4.5

I mentioned that some may feel more comfortable taking Tennessee SU rather than ATS, and I am one of those “some.” Coach Barnes is certainly one of the most tenacious coaches in the college game, and his track record is as lengthy as they come (spanning back to years coaching the Texas Longhorns). Still, in the 27 times that schools under his tutelage have made the NCAA Tournament, Barnes has only made it to the Final Four once (2003 with Texas). They may be coming off their best win of the season by eliminating Duke from the Big Dance, but I see this contest against FAU, but I see a tight game on the horizon.

Will Barnes, Tennessee reach Elite 8?

Aside from the spread, I am confident in this bunch of Volunteers to get the job done (ugly, if need be) outright. Behind established Tennessee-stars Olivier Nkamhoua and Santiago Vescovi, the Vols present a well-rounded attack that should be affective against a lengthy, athletic FAU squad. Of course, Barnes’ tourney woes are well documented, especially since taking over at Rocky Top, but I think Tennessee gets through the Sweet 16. Even bolder, I believe this team can make its first Final Four in university history.