Tennessee basketball bracketology: What's at stake in the SEC Tournament

There is more at stake for Tennessee basketball than adding another SEC Tournament Championship to their trophy case.
Texas A&M v Tennessee
Texas A&M v Tennessee / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The SEC Tournament is set to tip off on Wednesday as the 14 members of the Southeastern Conference look to knock off Tennessee basketball in search of the 2024 SEC Tournament Championship. The Vols have won the tournament once under Rick Barnes and are the top seed in this year's tournament, with a chance to do it again.

A lot has changed since Tennessee last cut down the net on SEC Tournament Sunday. This year's team looks different than the 2021 team, but one thing remains — veteran leadership. The Vols' experience can be a game-changer in tournament play.

Tennessee won the 2021-22 SEC Tournament, but the lineup is not quite the same. Zakai Zeigler was on that year's team but was not the contributor he is this year. Zeigler only started one game that season.  

Two players who were consistent contributors on that team were Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi. James and Vescovi have both seen a dip in their numbers this year compared to the past couple of years, but that doesn't mean they are less productive.

They bring valuable tournament experience to the table and can be productive and efficient without needing the ball in their hands. The Vols have not needed James or Vescovi to score 15 or 20 points per game this year, but they have the ability to bring clutch performances with them in March.

Barnes and the Vols will look to cut down the net again this year. A second SEC Tournament Championship and the opportunity to earn the school's first one-seed in the NCAA Tournament are at stake for the Vols.

Tennessee is currently competing with Arizona for the one-seed in the West. Earning the top seed in the region will give Tennessee priority over where they want to play the tournament's first two rounds, guaranteeing the Vols' play in Charlotte, North Carolina. It also comes with the understanding that 24 of the 38 national champions since 1985 and 12 of the past 16 champions were a one seed.

It seems like the Vols are pretty much locked into the one or two-seed in the West, so it is a matter of pride and making history for Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee can all but secure the one-seed if they can run the table and win the tournament.

Tennessee could fall to the East region if they lose in the quarterfinal round and North Carolina wins the ACC Tournament. This would put Tennessee in the same region as UCONN, South Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky, based on Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology, although that seems unlikely. 

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The Vols will be ready to face either Mississippi State or LSU in their first game of the tournament. Tennessee will take the court at Noon CT on Friday with a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and the opportunity to win a second SEC Tournament under Barnes on the line.