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The Daily Advertiser

Here are the three things Louisiana basketball needs to upset Tennessee in March Madness

By Cory Diaz, Lafayette Daily Advertiser,

2023-03-15
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It's certainly possible.

In the most recent NCAA Tournament contest between a 13th-seeded Louisiana basketball squad and 4th-seeded Tennessee, the Ragin' Cajuns nearly pulled the upset in Birmingham back in 2000. UL led at halftime, lost the lead with 4 minutes left but stayed within striking distance before two late free throws allowed the Vols to hang on, 63-58.

Fast forward to this season, when the No. 13 seed Cajuns (26-7) clinched the Sun Belt Conference's automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. And it was revealed on Selection Sunday that Louisiana gets another shot at creating some March Madness, drawing No. 4 seed Tennessee in a first-round showdown at the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday (8:40 p.m. CT, CBS).

UL DRAWS TENNESSEELouisiana Ragin' Cajuns, a 13-seed in NCAA Tournament, will face Tennessee in March Madness

UL FOOTBALL PROJECTED 2023 STARTERSProjecting the Louisiana football starting lineup as spring practice arrives

CAJUN FIELD RENOVATIONSLouisiana football stadium renovation won't start before end of 2023 season

Here's how this season's Ragin' Cajuns can upend the Volunteers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament's East Region:

Tennessee point guard Zakai Zeigler is out

It's evident that UT has missed point guard Zakai Zeigler, who torn his ACL in late February. It's gone 1-2 since he went down, as the team has lost a big cog that has pitched in nearly 11 points and 5.4 assists per game, but also got it done on the defensive end with 2 steals per contest.

While Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James are still there for the Vols, UL will have a real shot at dictating tempo with Themus Fulks, Greg Williams, Kentrell Garnett and Jalen Dalcourt at the guard spots.

Louisiana forward Jordan Brown must shine

In the Cajuns' two games this season against NCAA Tournament teams, standout forward Jordan Brown has had two different experiences.

Against Drake, Brown contended with foul trouble most of the night before eventually fouling out. He finished with eight points, and UL lost 76-64. Brown dropped 20 points at Texas, but he didn't get much help from this teammates as they lost 100-72.

Louisiana will need to get Brown going in this game and get him going early. It's likely Tennessee coach Rick Barnes will have center Jonas Aidoo, a good defensive big man, guarding Brown. But the Cajuns can't be deterred from getting their best player the ball as often as possible.

Ragin' Cajuns must take care of the basketball

Barnes' group relies on their opponents coughing up the ball and making mistakes. It's how they recently beat No. 1 Alabama and many others throughout the season. Tennessee forces 15 turnovers per game.

It'll be paramount for Louisiana to stay at or below its season average of 12 turnovers per game. The Vols cash in turnovers to roughly 18 points per game and in matchups like this, that could be the difference.

Cory Diaz covers the LSU Tigers and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns for The Daily Advertiser as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his Tigers and Cajuns coverage on Twitter: @ByCoryDiaz. Got questions regarding LSU/UL athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at bdiaz@gannett.com.

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