Selection Sunday Preview: How High Could Tennessee Climb?

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 10: Scotty Hopson #32 of the Tennessee Volunteers shoots against Marshawn Powell #33 and Jemal Farmer #2 of the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome on March 10, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Tennessee Volunteers' win over the Arkansas Razorbacks last night likely put all of that nasty bubble talk to bed for the season. The question for Bruce Pearl and the Vols now is one of seeding.

According to the 2011 Bracket Project Matrix, most bracketologists are predicting somewhere between 7-12, with the composite being the last-listed 9. There are two sites that don't seed the Vols at all. One is RealTimeRPI, whose entire above-the-fold area is overwhelmed by a giant AdSense ad and which lists Tennessee as a "Dropout this week." The time stamp is "2011-03-10 10::50," which could be last night soon after our game but before the rest of the day's games had ended but is more likely yesterday morning. The other is a site called Sports Measures, which was last updated on 3/7/11.

The Matrix has Florida as the first SEC team in with a 3 seed. Next is Kentucky with a 4, Vanderbilt with a 6, and Georgia with a 10, making it five SEC teams. Alabama is one of the First Four Out.

Regions and opponent, like the seeds, are all over the place, and it's changing daily now. SBNation's Chris Dobbertean had Tennessee as a 9 against 8 seed George Mason in Tulsa with 1 seed Kansas waiting yesterday. Today, he has UT as an 8 against 9 seed Gonzaga in Cleveland (hello, Cleveland! #mandatoryspinaltapjoke) with 1 seed Ohio State waiting.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi yesterday had Tennessee as a 10 against 7 seed UNLV, also in Tulsa, with 2 seed Texas waiting. Today? 10 (thanks, Joe!) against 7 seed Temple in Charlotte with 2 seed Duke looming.

CBSSports' Jerry Palm's bracket has me very confused, but if I'm reading it correctly, it had Tennessee as a 10 against 7 seed Old Dominion with 2 seed Syracuse waiting in the weeds yesterday. Today, we're a 10 (nobody loves Arkansas) against 7 seed Arizona in a bracket with 2 seed Purdue.

Tennessee's resume is still strong. According to Live-RPI.com, the Vols are currently at RPI 30. They have wins over Pitt (RPI 10), Vanderbilt (RPI 27), Memphis (RPI 33), Villanova (RPI 37), Georgia (RPI 39), Missouri State (RPI 40), VCU (RPI 50), and Belmont, who is out of the top 50 (53), but is a 33-win team that nearly doubled the score of its opponent in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.  This, plus all of the good teams UT's played but not beaten, all puts the Vols second in the nation in strength of schedule.

So how much can the Vols improve with a solid run through the SECT? They'll have a chance to get the attention of folks like Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm by playing RPI 9 Florida tonight. If they win, and assuming Vanderbilt gets by Mississippi State, UT would play Vandy (RPI 27, as noted above) tomorrow. Best case, the Vols beat Vandy and advance to play Kentucky (RIP (typo, but I like it) 11) on Sunday. If they have the good fortune of winning out, they'll likely have added another three wins against RPI top 50 teams.

Yes, we have to concede that that's unlikely to happen. But just for fun, how many seeds do you think one can you buy with three more RPI top 50 wins?

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