The week 13 basketball AP Poll was released on Monday and the top six teams stayed steady including Tennessee in the #1 spot. Kentucky and Nevada swapped places at seven and eight while North Carolina and Marquette both entered into the last two spots.
When comparing all the teams in the top ten, there is one glaring advantage that Tennessee has over the rest. Tennessee has more depth.
Most people who watch college basketball would be quick to point out that Tennessee really only rotates eight guys (Williams, Schofield, Bone, Alexander, Pons, Turner, Bowden, and Fulkerson) which doesn’t seem like a very deep team, but giving eight players decent playing time really isn’t out of the norm.
To be considered a decent contributor in college basketball, a good floor to put on the amount of minutes a player gets is roughly 12 minutes per game.
When a player averages more than 12 minutes it says that not only do they play over a quarter of the game, but they do it consistently even in conference play. Some player’s minutes per game get skewed in preseason blowouts where they play a lot, but then their minutes diminish during conference play showing that they don’t contribute that much. This is why 12 seems to be a good measure.
With that in mind, here is the number of players on each team in the top ten that average over 12 minutes per game:
Michigan State- 8
North Carolina- 7
As you can see, 8 players getting consistent playing time is right on par with the rest of the top ten (excluding Gonzaga who generally blows teams out even in their own conference allowing more guys to get more time).
So what makes Tennessee more deep than other elite teams? You have to look further than just the quantity of depth, but instead the quality of depth, especially in offensive production.
You have to look at how many players can get in the game and really be a threat to the other team on the offensive end.
Of course there are many offensive statistics to measure players by, but the area that Tennessee thrives in is points per game (PPG). Tennessee has more players that average double-digits than any other top ten team.
Here is a list of the number of players on top ten teams that average double digits:
Tennessee- 5 (not including Kyle Alexander who averages 9.3)
Michigan State- 3
North Carolina- 4
Two weeks ago, Kyle Alexander was in double digits as well, but that number has decreased due to low-scoring performances recently. Within the next few games though, we could easily see Alexander back over 10 PPG which would give Tennessee 6 players in that category.
This illustrates how deep Tennessee really is compared to others based on the scoring ability of the team as a whole. Some teams only have 3 real scoring threats and are incredibly top heavy, that’s not the case with Tennessee.
The Vols are not the type of team that you can slow down by locking up one player. For example, Grant Williams (the team and the SEC leading scorer) was limited to only four points against Missouri, yet Tennessee still managed to drop 87 points as a team.
Yes, some teams have four players that average double digits, but having that one (basically two) other players that can effectively score the ball makes a world of difference for the Vols.
With a quality top eight players and six who are real scoring threats, the Vols are a difficult team to prepare for. That sort of depth is also exactly what wins in March.
Tennessee is built for the Madness.
Cover Image: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports