USA TODAY Sports
While the Vols wait three days to play, here's who else to keep an eye on.
As Championship Week unfolds, there are a couple of things we know for sure. First, Tennessee needs to win on Thursday against the winner of South Carolina and Mississippi State. At this point I don't think it really matters who it is; the selection committee almost certainly isn't going to decide on us because we beat the Gamecocks (208 RPI) instead of the Bulldogs (237). But as you can see, a loss to either would be our worst of the season, knock our own RPI back to 69 according to RPI Forecast - the worst RPI to make the field as an at-large since the formula changed in 2005 is 67 - and negate all of our momentum. We made it this far last year and then stumbled in our first game of the SEC Tournament. That has to change this time around. The Vols simply cannot afford to lose on Thursday.
What we also know for sure is we want no bid-stealers in any conference tournaments. While it's impossible to know the fate of every bubble team with Selection Sunday still six days away, we do know which teams are absolutely out...and we want no surprises from them in any tournaments. It's especially dangerous in leagues expected to earn very few at-large bids, because just one slip up by a team like Memphis can cause a bubble spot to vanish. And that's exactly what happened to MTSU Sunday night, shocked by Florida International in the Sun Belt Tournament, now putting the Blue Raiders and their #27 RPI in the at-large pool. That's bad for the rest of us, and we need as little of that as possible.
So we'd be thrilled with any of these teams winning their conference tournaments:
- ACC: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State
- Atlantic 10: VCU, Butler, Saint Louis
- Big East: Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
- Big 10: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
- Big 12: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
- Conference USA: Memphis
- Mountain West: New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State
- Pac 12: Arizona, UCLA
- SEC: Florida, Missouri, Tennessee