The conference tournaments have been going on for a couple of days now, and the teams that Tennessee fans care most about start playing today. Besides the Vols, who should Tennessee fans watch and root for this week? We have answers. Or opinions, at least.
Here’s the latest info from the team sheets, updated through the games on Tuesday night and sorted by NET Rankings:
Virginia overtakes Gonzaga for the top spot, as the Bulldogs lost this week to St. Mary’s. I thought that the Zags’ long hold on the top spot was in jeopardy when their regular season ended, so the thing that surprised me wasn’t that Virginia jumped them but that they didn’t fall further. They’re barely over .500 in Q1 wins (4-3), and their computer rankings don’t seem to justify that second spot. I won’t be surprised if they drop further as the ACC and SEC tournaments progress.
As for the Cavaliers, nobody’s catching them for that top spot. They could help the Vols, though, by giving either Duke or North Carolina another loss thus maybe freeing up room below them on the 1-line.
Root for: Virginia to win out if it means beating either Duke or North Carolina. If either or both of Duke and North Carolina have already lost, root for Virginia to lose as well. It won’t matter, but hey.
I still don’t know what to make of Houston’s position among this group of teams, as they, like Gonzaga, haven’t played as many Q1 opponents as the other teams on the list. The Cougars will have a couple of make-or-break opportunities in the AAC Tourney, though, so we might find out if they’re truly legit this week. If the chalk holds, they’ll get UConn (No. 94 NET) tomorrow and two Q1 opponents in UCF (No. 28) on Saturday and Cincinnati (No. 27) on Sunday. Even if they win out, though, I don’t see how the Cougars stay in the fourth spot due to the better opportunities for the teams competing with them for it.
Root for: Houston to lose. The sooner the better.
The rest is where it gets especially interesting. The SEC Tournament will likely determine the pecking order between Tennessee and Kentucky. Assuming they each take care of business tomorrow, they’ll meet on Saturday. That game would decide which of them is the first SEC team in the NET Rankings and, assuming LSU awaits in the championship, could also give that team an additional (and important) Q1 opportunity.
Root for: Tennessee, Kentucky, and LSU to all win tomorrow and Tennessee to win out. If the Vols lose to Kentucky on Friday, root for Kentucky and LSU to both lose, the sooner the better.
Similarly, the ACC Tournament will likely determine the Duke-North Carolina pecking order. UNC plays Louisville tonight at 7:00, and Duke plays Syracuse after that. Assuming they both win, they’ll meet again tomorrow at 9:00. Whoever wins that will likely face Virginia on Saturday at 8:30.
Root for: Duke and North Carolina to both lose. If they play each other, root for UNC to win and hope the Selection Committee doesn’t want three ACC teams on the 1-line.
Here are the tip times (many are approximate) and TV schedules again for convenience: