Filed by Gentry Estes
SAN ANTONIO -- Other than scattered specks of orange in the seats, there was little evidence at Saturday's regional final that Tennessee had taken part in this week's festivities at the Alamodome.
The Volunteers had been so close. But it didn't appear that way with Ohio State preening on the podium and cutting down the nets two days after clawing back from a 20-point deficit to edge Tennessee by one point.
Of course, we'll never know how the Vols would have fared in a rematch with rival Memphis. Preparation would have been different. So would the actual game. An 18-point home victory over the Tigers in December would have obviously inspired confidence in the Vols' shot at the Final Four.
But it's worth mentioning several facts that suggest Tennessee would not have been as successful as Ohio State on Saturday.
-- The Vols (and possibly any NBA franchise) wouldn't have been able to duplicate the Buckeyes' performance at the free throw line.
Ohio State finished 35-of-41 from the charity stripe, including a 26-for-28 clip (92.9 percent) in the second half. Five different Buckeyes combined to sink 20 consecutive foul shots to seal the victory, an astounding feat in any game, much less a pressure-packed NCAA regional final.
Tennessee entered Thursday night's defeat a 65.7 percent foul shooting team, and didn't improve with nine costly misses on 17 attempts.
— Memphis wanted to run. Ohio State did not. Tennessee would have.
The Tigers finished with no fast break points, while the Buckeyes had two in a slower, half-court game. Had this been the Vols, it would have been completely different, becoming a rapid-fire, 3-point shooting contest.
Memphis actually fared well in that department Sunday, sinking 10 of 22 (45.5 percent) shots from 3-point range. That wouldn't have helped Tennessee.
-- And the biggest reason -- literally -- why Memphis would have rather played Tennessee? The Vols' don't have 7-foot center Greg Oden. Not only did Oden dominate the Tigers, in coach John Calipari's words, he changed the game on both ends of the floor and gave the Buckeyes an interior threat the Vols simply don't have.
E-mail Gentry Estes at firstname.lastname@example.org