Believe it or not, the Tennessee basketball regular season is now two-thirds complete. That means we've entered the "last ten games" portion of the schedule, and while we're unsure exactly how much a team's finish will mean to the selection committee, since you're going to see this stat in every bracketology projection for the next six weeks, we thought we'd take a look at what the Vols have left.
The Vols were 10-2 before the January 1 arrests, and are 6-2 since then. But because the selection committee will put more weight on what the Vols have done with the roster that'll be playing in March, and because UT's SEC schedule is backloaded with the best teams in the conference, a strong finish would impress the committee even more than usual. And on the flip side, a disastrous finish against a tough schedule could find the Vols needing help in the SEC Tournament just to go dancing at all.
It's the most important stretch of the season...here's what the Vols will face (all times EST):
- Thu Feb 4 - at LSU (9:00 PM - ESPN2)
- Sat Feb 6 - vs South Carolina (6:00 PM - ESPN)
- Tue Feb 9 - at Vanderbilt (7:00 PM - ESPN)
- Sat Feb 13 - at Kentucky (9:00 PM - ESPN)
- Wed Feb 17 - vs Georgia (7:00 PM - SEC Network)
- Sat Feb 20 - at South Carolina (1:30 PM - SEC Network)
- Tue Feb 23 - at Florida (9:00 PM - ESPN)
- Sat Feb 27 - vs Kentucky (12:00 PM - CBS)
- Wed Mar 3 - vs Arkansas (7:00 PM - CSS)
- Sat Mar 6 - at Mississippi State (6:00 PM - ESPN)
Once the Vols get past LSU, they'll have played the three teams that are currently in the bottom half of the SEC West standings. Seven of the nine games after that are against teams still thinking about the NCAA Tournament, and the other two are against the Georgia team that already blasted them, and a full strength Arkansas team now that Courtney Fortson is back. Six of these final ten are on the road.
A 5-5 finish will get the Vols to 9-7 in the SEC, 21-9 overall. That should be enough to get Tennessee in the field of 64. But if the Vols want to hang around in the top tier of the bracket and secure a 4 seed or better (which is where most current projections have them), they'll need to do better than that.
Vegas will probably make the Vols favorites in six of the final ten games, but with several of those opportunities on the road nothing will come easy. Any win in the next six weeks will be a good one, especially with this roster. Thanks to the win over Florida, the Vols can breathe a little easier and not feel like the sky is falling. There will be both big wins and disappointing losses in these final ten games...can the Vols get enough of the former to put themselves in position to make a run in March?