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Photograph: Louisiana forward Jordan Brown scores in Sun Belt Championship game. (Photograph by Ben Massey/Louisiana Athletics)

BOBBY ARDOIN
Editor/Consulting Writer

The offensive power of the Louisiana men’s basketball team will be challenged Thursday night in a first-round NCAA tournament contest by No. 4-seed University of Tennessee which ranks nationally in three defensive categories.

Whether the 13th-seeded Cajuns, which won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship last week can score efficiently against Tennessee, will be determined when the two programs meet beginning at 8:40 p.m. for a nationally-televised game inside the Amway Center in Orlando, Fl.

Louisiana (26-7) and Tennessee (23-10) will join No. 5 seed Duke (26-8) and Oral Roberts (30-4) as first-round NCAA East Region teams playing at the Amway Center.

It’s been awhile since the Cajuns, which rank 15th nationally in field goal percentage, have participated in an NCAA Tournament. Louisiana last played in an NCAA first-round contest in 2014, losing to Creighton.

Tennessee, which has beaten Louisiana in two other NCAA tournament games, has a defense that concerns Cajuns’ head basketball coach Bob Marlin.

“They (Tennessee) have an excellent defensive team. I have known (Tennessee head coach) Rick Barnes for a long time and his teams have always played well defensively,” Marlin said earlier this week.

Marlin said he also isn’t surprised that the Cajuns and Tennessee are matched in a first-round game.

“We had picked eight teams that we thought we would face if we did get into the tournament and Tennessee was one of those teams we looked at closely,” Marlin added.

Louisiana faces a Tennessee defense that leads the nation in three-point scoring defense, while the Volunteers rank second in field goal defense and third in scoring defense.

Tennessee, which is allowing opponents to score an average of 58.0 points per game, has to guard a Cajuns’ offense which has averaged nearly 80 points a game all season.

The two programs are no strangers when it comes to opposing one another in NCAA contests. The Thursday night matchup is the third time Louisiana and Tennessee meet in a NCAA first-round game. Tennessee defeated the Cajuns in 1982 and 2000.

Louisiana is led by senior forward Jordan Brown (19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds). Brown was named the MVP of the SBC Tournament championship game against South Alabama and on Wednesday the National Association of Basketball Coaches announced Brown has been named to the organization’s District 23 first team.

The Cajuns’ Greg Williams, Jr. was a second team NABC selection.

Tennessee achieved its No. 4 seed after beating two NCAA top-seeded teams in Alabama and Kansas during the regular season. The Volunteers also beat No. 2 Texas.