Dusty May compares Tennessee to Australian rugby rules

On3 imageby:On3 Staff Report03/22/23

As the Sweet Sixteen draws ever closer, Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May is clarifying some comments he made in anticipation of facing Tennessee. The Owls head coach said that he’d be studying up on Australian rugby rules in anticipation of taking on the Volunteers.

The comment was meant to be a reflection of how physically Tennessee plays, and May didn’t want things to get misconstrued.

“I feel bad because I combined two sports,” May said this week. “There’s Australian rules football and then there’s rugby, and I should have known that, but it was the first thing that came into my mind.”

Tennessee, though, will absolutely provide a physical measuring stick for Florida Atlantic.

A game against Duke involved several tense physical battles, some that left the Blue Devils seemingly begging for a call from the officials here or there.

May denied that he’d seen the Duke-Tennessee game when he met with the media, but he knows his squad is in for a physical challenge.

“It’s the most physical sport without pads that I’ve ever seen, and I know that was taken, I guess, in different ways,” May said of his rugby comment. “If you said that our team is extremely physical, extremely aggressive, extremely intense, I’d tell the staff and the players you guys are doing a great job because that’s what I want them to say about us defensively.”

In jest or not, Tennessee is incredibly difficult to score on.

Through the regular season Tennessee maintained a spot at or near the top of the KenPom.com adjusted defensive efficiency ranks. As things stand today the Volunteers are No. 1.

So forget about rugby or whether or not May has had the chance to catch up on the Duke film, Florida Atlantic will be in for a tussle on Thursday night.

“I didn’t see the Duke game, have no idea, I had just heard through Twitter there were some comments made,” May said, once again referencing his rugby comments. “But I say that in the most complimentary way possible. Coach (Rick) Barnes is a legend and it hasn’t changed. When I was at Florida they were the same way, and it was hard to make a pass, let alone score a basket against them.”

Florida Atlantic and Tennessee will play in the late game in Madison Square Garden in the Sweet 16, with tip scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on TBS.