Two wins over top five teams, one road loss to a top 25 team and a 3-1 record the past two weeks has slightly improved Tennessee basketball in NCAA Tournament forecasts. After beating the Missouri Tigers on the road and then the Auburn Tigers last Saturday, though, the Vols are only up in one bracket.
In terms of the rankings, it’s a different story. The Vols moved up exactly four spots to No. 13 in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll. At 21-7 overall, they are tied with three other teams for second overall in SEC play as well at 12-4 and are one game behind Auburn for first.
Entering the final week of the regular season, this has UT really moving up the analytical rankings. They are No. 10 in the RealTime RPI thanks to a No. 4 ranked strength of schedule. In the ESPN BPI, they are up to No. 7 thanks to a No. 3 ranked strength of schedule and No. 10 ranked strength of record.
The most important metric used by the selection committee, the NCAA NET rankings, has Tennessee basketball at No. 8. This is due to an undefeated record in all non-Quadrant 1 and home games along with a .500 record in Quadrant 1 games.
Looking at all of these rankings, the Vols are ranging from a No. 2 to a No. 3 seed in the analytics and are a No. 4 seed in human polls. The bracketology projections range for them seems to be falling right now between the human polls and the RPI, which would have them as a No. 3 seed.
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports hasn’t moved Rocky Top in three weeks. He still has them as a No. 4 seed. In his forecast, the Vols would be in the South Region, where the Arizona Cardinals, one of the top five teams they beat this year, are the No. 1 seed.
Joining the Vols’ weekend-opening pod in Palm’s bracket are the No. 5 seed UCLA Bruins and No. 12 seed BYU Cougars. Rick Barnes’ team themselves would face the No. 13 seed Towson Tigers in the first round of the Big Dance. These games would be in buffalo.
Mike DeCourcy of Fox Sports hasn’t changed his position on Tennessee basketball either, but his comes from a place of respect, as his was the only main bracket last week where UT was a No. 3 seed. They remain that, although again in the South Region with Arizona as the top seed.
Rocky Top’s weekend-opening pod in DeCourcy’s bracket includes the No. 6 seed Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 11 seed San Diego State Aztecs. They would face an in-state foe, the No. 14 seed Chattanooga Mocs, in the first round.
👀 @tsnmike‘s first Bracket Forecast of March is here!
What do you think about his tournament field? 👇 pic.twitter.com/fUUqUvffkK
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 1, 2022
Joe Lunardi of ESPN was the one person to alter his projection for UT, and it was for the positive. In his bracket, the Vols have moved up from a No. 4 seed to a No. 3 seed, and once again, they sare in the South Region, but the Baylor Bears are the top seed here.
This bracket has the Vols in a weekend-opening pod with the No. 6 seed Saint Mary’s Gaels and two No. 11 seeds who would take part in a play-in game, the Memphis Tigers and Indiana Hoosiers. UT would face the No. 14 seed Princeton Tigers in the first round.
If things continue to break the Vols’ way, though, a No. 2 seed could be on the horizon. After all, they have another Quadrant 1 game in the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the SEC Regular Season Championship remains in play. Then they could win a couple SEC Tournament games.
In fact, if Tennessee basketball can win the regular season title somehow and then win the SEC Tournament Championship, they may be looking at an outside shot at a No. 1 seed. There’s a lot to deal with before that, so their current focus should just be a strong finish to the regular season.