With spring practices starting and the SEC tournament beginning, it makes for a very busy time in the world of Tennessee athletics. With that being said, here’s what to watch for this week.
Will the Vols lock down an NCAA tournament bid?
If you would’ve said a month or two ago that Tennessee would be sitting squarely on the bubble come SEC tournament time, you probably would’ve received a lot of crazy looks. Well, that’s exactly where the Vols find themselves as March Madness is heating up.
Tennessee lost a critical game to Georgia on March 2nd, but rebounded with quality wins over Auburn and Missouri. Tennessee now sits at 19-11 overall and 11-7 in the SEC.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket has the Vols as one of the first four teams out. Virginia’s win over Maryland, combined with Kentucky’s win over Florida, did not do the Volunteers any favors this weekend.
Jerry Palm of CBSsports.com has Tennessee in the tournament as a 12 seed, playing in one of the four first round play-in games.
Tennessee has a first round bye in the SEC tournament. The Vols will await the winner of Mississippi State/South Carolina on Wednesday night. If the Vols get past the first round they’ll take on Alabama. Tennessee will likely need to win two games in the SEC tournament to guarantee a bid. The Vols can still make the tournament with only one win, but two would give them the extra breathing room to make selection Sunday a little less stressful. If the Vols fail to win a game in the SEC tournament, they can essentially bid their tournaments hopes adieu.
Can Butch Jones keep the momentum going?
The Tennessee football program has carried a lot of momentum going into spring practice. They’ve suffered some setbacks, the loss of Jay Graham being one, but Butch Jones appears to have a way of turning a negative into a positive. Jones went out and hired Robert Gillespie, the former Florida Gators running back. Analysts instantly loved the moved, some even called it an improvement over Graham. The team has instantly bonded with Gillespie, who fits right in with Jones and the rest of the staff.
Jones had several victories to celebrate this weekend. On top of a successful opening to spring practice, the Vols received two more commitments to their 2014 class. One of the top centers in the nation, Coleman Thomas, committed to play football for the Volunteers. The next day one of the top safeties in the nation, and Knoxville native, Todd Kelly JR committed to Tennessee.
Commitments come in sporadically this time of year, and it’s hard to predict when any recruit will decide to make a verbal commitment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more recruits follow this week. Kelly has a lot of connections to other recruits and him making a commitment this early definitely sends a message to the other recruits.
Can the Vol’s baseball team get over the .500 mark?
Tennessee will meet Western Kentucky this week in Knoxville for a two-game series. The Vols have yet to experience a winning record this season.
The Volunteer’s sweep of Alcorn State this past week brought the Vols to .500 for the first time this season.
Western Kentucky will enter Tuesday’s meeting against Tennessee with an identical 7-7 record.
The Vol’s bats came to life against Alcorn State and they’ll hope that carries over against the Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky’s pitching hasn’t been untouchable this season, but they’ve only gave up double-digit run totals twice this year.
Freshmen RHP Trevor Bettencourt will make his first career start in the series opener on Tuesday. Bettencourt has appeared in five games this year and currently has a 1.74 era.
Fellow freshmen Andy Cox will get the start in the second and final game of the series. The southpaw is 1-1 this season with a 7.50 era.
Both games are set for a 6:00 pm est start time.