Championship Week - What To Watch For

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vols are on the bubble and off til Friday. Here's who to cheer for and against to make life a little easier until then.

After Saturday's 27 point beatdown of Missouri, the Vols are stable in RPI and sitting inside the majority of bracket projections as the week begins. The Vols currently appear in 91.4% of the projections in the Bracket Matrix that have been updated after Saturday's action; as you know if you've been reading here all year that's a very handy site to keep an eye on this week.

Tennessee has an RPI of 44 at the moment, and while it's not an exact science because you're not exactly sure who the Vols will play, RPI Forecast projects UT to have an RPI of 58 if we lose on Friday, 41 going out on Saturday, 33 making it to Sunday, and 23 for winning the SEC Tournament. That's a lot of room for movement, and there are layers of conversations about the SEC Tournament. The Vols can feel safe about an NCAA Tournament bid with one win, probably get the biggest quality win of all with two wins and play themselves out of Dayton for sure, and if the Vols somehow find a way to win their first SEC Tournament in 35 years, you'd be dealing with a team on a seven game win streak playing like that #12 KenPom ranking is the real thing, moving way up the bracket.

The Vols can take care of their own March fate by winning, but before we take the floor again every other bubble team will be in action. And we'll take all the help we can get. Here's a look at every team on the bubble and when they'll be in action this week:

MONDAY

BYU (11 Bracket Matrix - 33 RPI - 47 KenPom) vs San Francisco (WCC Semifinals 11:30 PM)

WEDNESDAY

Stanford (11 Bracket Matrix - 43 RPI - 42 KenPom) vs Washington State

Georgetown (F4O Bracket Matrix - 54 RPI - 49 KenPom) vs DePaul

THURSDAY

Pittsburgh (10 Bracket Matrix - 46 RPI - 20 KenPom) vs Wake Forest/Notre Dame winner

Xavier (11 Bracket Matrix - 48 RPI - 43 KenPom) vs Marquette

Dayton (11 Bracket Matrix - 39 RPI - 51 KenPom) vs George Mason/Fordham

Arkansas (11 Bracket Matrix - 62 RPI - 55 KenPom) vs Auburn/South Carolina winner

California (F4O Bracket Matrix - 55 RPI - 69 KenPom) vs Colorado/USC winner

Providence (F4O Bracket Matrix - 54 RPI - 53 KenPom) vs St. John's

Minnesota (F4O Bracket Matrix - 51 RPI - 56 KenPom) vs Penn State

Florida State (N4O Bracket Matrix - 59 RPI - 39 KenPom) vs Maryland

Missouri (N4O Bracket Matrix - 52 RPI - 71 KenPom) vs Texas A&M

St. John's (N4O Bracket Matrix - 56 RPI - 37 KenPom) vs Providence

FRIDAY

St. Joseph's (10 Bracket Matrix - 42 RPI - 52 KenPom) vs Dayton/George Mason/Fordham

Nebraska (12 Bracket Matrix - 41 RPI - 47 KenPom) vs Ohio State/Purdue winner

One thing conference realignment has done is eliminate some of the one-bid league moments where a team like Memphis is going to dance but might cost you in the Conference USA Tournament. This should leave us with nine multi-bid leagues (ACC, American, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC) where you need no shockers. The only maybe here is the West Coast Conference, where bubble team BYU will play tonight in the semifinals with Gonzaga believed to be safely in the field.

As you can see, Thursday will be a big one. I would expect far more people to look at Tennessee's first SEC Tournament game as must-win by the time Friday gets here unless there's a lot of bubble disaster earlier in the week. The Vols still have a stronger KenPom all of these teams, by far, and a stronger RPI than two-thirds of them. If you believe the matrix and there are no conference tournament major upset winners, it looks to me like sixteen teams still playing for about nine spots. Tennessee's best and perhaps still only course of action is victory. But we'll keep an eye on it this week and see what changes between now and Friday.

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