The Vols Aren’t “Playing Their Way” Into The NCAA Tournament


Mar 1, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

At first it was just a few tweets here and there from folks proclaiming that Tennessee hadn’t yet made the tournament. These folks suggested that because the Vols are playing Iowa in the first round — also known as the “First Four” — they weren’t actually in the tournament yet.

By Monday afternoon it had turned into a movement. “The Vols aren’t in the tournament” was somewhat of a battle cry for those wanting Cuonzo Martin fired.

This logic simply isn’t true.

The NCAA tournament is comprised of 68 teams.

The Vols are one of those 68 teams.

Surely that should end any debate, right?


Curmudgeon Vol fans are still trying to float the idea that Tennessee somehow has to “play-in” to the tournament by earning their #11 seed against Iowa. Most of this wayward thinking has to do with the misnomer of a “play-in” game.  There is no such thing as a “play-in” game. That’s just a term that’s been thrown around to describe what is technically known as the “First Four”, or (as described earlier) the first round.

These four games are played between the lowest four at-large teams and the lowest four automatic bid teams.

The Vols — whether you agree or not (and I don’t by the way) — are one of the those last at-large teams in the tournament.

If they end up losing to Iowa, they still made the tournament and they were still an 11 seed. There’s just no other way to possibly spin it. If they win, then they advance to the second round (60 teams basically get a first round bye).

It would also go down as a tournament win for Cuonzo Martin and the Vols if they were to beat Iowa.

That probably won’t sit well with Vol fans who want Martin fired, but it is what it is.

Vol fans have been desperate for a NCAA Tournament berth since Bruce Pearl was fired. They finally got it this season and somehow it still isn’t good enough.

Just ask Florida State or SMU fans how they’d feel about playing on Wednesday night.

Enjoy it Vol fans, not every program gets this opportunity.