So the way this has gone the last two years is we start slow and give up on the NCAA Tournament, then get unbelievably hot down the stretch and crunch the numbers late to see if we can squeeze in. This year the Vols' 6-4 start may not get quite as bad as what we've seen the last two seasons when Tennessee was 10-12 in 2012 and 11-10 in 2013 before they hit their season-ending stride. But the expectations and the temperature are different this year, both driving the conversation one of two ways: the NCAA Tournament, or a conversation about a different coach - Bruce Pearl now, probably a list of someone elses later.
In an attempt to drive the conversation back the other more preferable way, we're going to the math much earlier. The numbers in this post come from this story back on March 5, updated to include the 2013 tournament.
First a word about RPI. This is not a conversation about whether or not RPI is an effective metric to judge basketball teams. This is a conversation about RPI because the selection committee will have several conversations about RPI.
Our thanks to two sites for most of the data: Real Time RPI for the historical numbers, and RPI Forecast for current projections. The projections are exactly that, and right now they're quite volatile because they assume no upsets. But the closer we get to the finish line the more stable they'll become, so RPI Forecast is a great site to check back with.
Here's the most basic point: since the tournament expanded to 68 teams no major conference team has been left out with an RPI better than 50. Get in the RPI Top 50, you're in. Here's how close it's been for others involved since the formula was changed to put more weight on home losses and road wins:
- Last at-large: California (54)
- Highest left out: Louisiana Tech (53)
- Highest major left out: Kentucky (57) - Vols were 59
- 19-12 - 66
- 20-11 - 50
- 21-10 - 40
- 22-9 - 32
- 23-8 - 25
- Teams the Vols play twice: Florida 22, Missouri 47, Vanderbilt 111, Texas A&M 139, Auburn 212
- Teams the Vols play at home: Arkansas 40, Ole Miss 62, Georgia 169, South Carolina 171
- Teams the Vols play on the road: Kentucky 18, LSU 35, Alabama 87, Mississippi State 205