After its recent win over the Kentucky Wildcats, Tennessee is surging up the polls and positioning itself for a strong seeding in the NCAA Tournament this season.
According to ESPN’s BPI, the Vols are sitting in as good a position as they have been this season. They currently have the best odds of receiving the fourth No. 1 seed in the tournament of any team in the nation.
The Vols have put together a strong non-conference resume, with their biggest win coming against Purdue, but the improvement of the SEC has been the biggest plus to their projected seeding.
“This is the best basketball league in the country, and I don’t know why people don’t want to own up to that,” Rick Barnes said. “If it keeps going like it is now, this league should have nine teams in the NCAA Tournament.”
Based on location, there are certain places that fans would like the Vols to end up, but here are some of the most likely early locations for the team in the NCAA Tournament.
1) Nashville: This is the most likely scenario at this point for Tennessee. After a win at Rupp Arena, the Vols are likely to be a No. 2 seed. A No. 2 seed in the southern region would place the Vols in Nashville, where many of their fans can make the short trip down I-40.
As mentioned earlier, the Vols have the best odds at the overall No. 4 seed in the tournament. This would likely place them in the western region with their tournament run starting in Nashville. If the men in orange can continue to take care of business, this looks like a legit possibility.
2) Charlotte: Charlotte is another trip that wouldn’t be very far for Tennessee fans, and there’s also a good chance of it happening. For the Vols to be able to play in Charlotte, they’d have to either be a No. 2 seed in the western region or a No. 1 seed in the southern region.
Of those two options, the No. 2 seed in the western area is easily the more attainable. This would happen if the Vols barely missed the chance at a No. 1 seed after continuing to play very good basketball.
While the one seed in the southern region is possible, it’s a lot more unlikely. Purdue, Villanova and Virginia look like very strong candidates for the top three No. 1 seeds unless they have major collapses down the stretch. One of those teams would have to struggle in February for the Vols to have a chance at passing them over.
3) Wichita: Before their matchup against the Wildcats, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected the Vols as a No. 4 seed in the Midwest, which would land them in Wichita.
The No. 4 seed is still a possibility with a couple of bad losses down the stretch, but the No. 2 seed in the Midwest is also an option.
4) Boise: For about a period of two weeks, Boise was looking like the most likely city for the Vols before their win streak.
Being a No. 4 seed wouldn’t be a bad seed at all, but it is the scenario that would take the most losing out of these four options. Besides, Boise is a long 1700-mile trek across the United States for the Vols.
The fourth seeds in the eastern and southern regions will be playing in Boise, Idaho.
All of the above scenarios would result in Tennessee being one of the top 16 teams seeded in the NCAA Tournament.
Sitting at No. 15 right now in the AP Poll, they’re right on the edge, but their current resume will likely catapult them above a few higher-ranked teams.
Other host cities in the first three rounds are Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit and San Diego.
With at least eight games left before the NCAA Tournament, the Vols could essentially end up in any of the host cities, so they are focused on finishing strong.
“We got a lot more to do, and we have a lot more to prove,” Admiral Schofield said. “It’s really not proving it to anybody but proving to ourselves that we can do it. We know we can compete with anybody else in the country.”