After six days off, Tennessee returns to the floor tonight against Mississippi State (6:00 PM ET SEC Network) in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Victory would send the Vols to round three against Kentucky or Vanderbilt on Saturday.
In Thursday’s latest Bracket Matrix, Tennessee is the second #3 seed, 10th overall, with very little space between Purdue, the Vols, and Wisconsin on the three line. Baylor lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 quarterfinals, but the defending champs are probably too far up the ladder to fall to Tennessee’s range. Villanova narrowly escaped against St. John’s.
For #2 seed purposes, here’s the slate today:
- Auburn vs Texas A&M, 12:00 PM, ESPN
- Tennessee vs Mississippi State, 6:00 PM, SEC Network
- Wisconsin vs Michigan State, 6:30 PM, Big Ten Network
- Duke vs Miami, 7:00 PM, ESPN
- Kansas vs TCU, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
- Kentucky vs Vanderbilt, 8:00 PM, SEC Network
- Villanova vs UConn, 9:00 PM, Fox Sports 1
- Purdue vs Penn State, 9:00 PM, Big Ten Network
- Texas Tech vs Oklahoma, 9:30 PM, ESPN2
Auburn is the last #1 seed and Kansas the first #2 seed in the Bracket Matrix; like Baylor, they’re also probably out of Tennessee’s range. Next is Kentucky, where the Vols can take care of their own business tomorrow if the opportunity presents itself.
It’s the next group where there’s the most wiggle room: Duke, Villanova, Purdue, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas Tech. If the Bracket Matrix holds, two of those teams will earn #2 seeds. Over at Bart Torvik’s predictive bracketology, the Vols are the final #2 seed coming into Friday with Villanova; the computers have no human feelings for Coach K, with Duke the last #3 seed.
The NCAA Tournament is both the ultimate goal, and a dangerous way to define your entire season. It’s why regular season memories are valuable to keep us warm year to year, and this Tennessee team has checked that box many times over. The seed line is the combination of the two, your regular season accomplishments giving you a better chance to advance in March. For a program looking for its second Elite Eight and first Final Four, there are tangible rewards available before the national championship.
If the Vols take care of business tonight, they should lock up at least a #3 seed, and may land there even if Mississippi State pulls the upset. Only four Tennessee teams have been seeded three or higher: twos in 2006, 2008, and 2019, and a three in 2018. It would be the most important feather in an already full cap. And the stakes only get higher from here.