John Fulkerson is officially out…
…which makes this a good time to point out that not only is Rick Barnes 8-6 against Kentucky, he’s 7-2 against Florida.
Moving forward, let’s start with Alabama. In the first game against the Tide, Jaden Springer got hurt after playing just five minutes, and Yves Pons sat most of the first half with two fouls. The result was lineup Wheel of Fortune: E.J. Anosike played 10 minutes, Olivier Nkamhoua played four, Drew Pember three, Davonte Gaines one. With no Fulkerson, we know the Vols can play Pons at the five and Josiah at the four, probably even when Bama puts Herbert Jones and Jordan Bruner on the court together. I’ll be curious to see if they also try the four-guard lineup with Vescovi, Bailey, the freshmen, and Pons. But either way, somebody else is going to have to play today, and possibly beyond.
Nkamhoua hasn’t played more than four minutes since the home loss to Kentucky on February 20. Anosike hasn’t played more than three minutes since the Georgia win on February 10. Can Davonte Gaines get in the mix? Who can give the Vols something off the bench in the short and long term?
I’d imagine Fulkerson’s status for the NCAA Tournament won’t be disclosed in a way that will impact Tennessee’s seeding. The Vols were on the five line in yesterday’s Bracket Matrix, and not all of those brackets took Villanova’s loss into account. Over at Bart Torvik’s predictive bracketology the Vols are a four, with Tennessee’s Teamcast leaving them as the final four seed with a loss today, the final two seed by beating Alabama then Arkansas, and a three seed in any other Sunday scenario. My best guess would be anything from 3-5 at this point.
To that end, here’s what to watch for today, with seeds from the March 12 Bracket Matrix – you want the team in bold to lose:
- Alabama vs Tennessee (5) – 1:00 PM – SEC Network
- Arkansas vs LSU – 3:30 PM – SEC Network
- Houston (2) vs Memphis – 5:30 PM – ESPN2
- Oklahoma State (3) vs Texas (3) – 6:00 PM – ESPN
- Creighton (5) vs Georgetown – 6:30 PM – Fox
- Florida State (5) vs Georgia Tech – 8:30 PM – ESPN
- Colorado (6) vs Oregon State – 10:30 PM – ESPN
The Buffaloes, of course, are a former Vol opponent, but at this point I think the loss would be more helpful to Tennessee’s seed. There are also great games between teams the Vols shouldn’t pass in the field in the Big Ten semifinals.
We’ll have to wait on Fulkerson’s health to really dive into NCAA Tournament expectations. But if you’re curious how far they might go without him, playing Alabama today can be a blessing in disguise. Get your feet wet before it costs you the whole season…and make no mistake, Alabama is the deep end. Let’s see how well we can swim.