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Forget the pecking order: it's the road that kills in the SEC

Joel left me with some stuff to work with this morning, so consider this the first co-written post here at RTT. Feel the synergy! -- CFAJ

Back on the bubble? Well, the idea that Tennessee is a "lock" for the NCAA tournament might have taken a hit on Saturday. I say "might have" because it's not like losing on the road in the SEC is any big deal, as road teams in the conference went 1-5 Saturday. That includes Kentucky falling at Alabama and Vandy shocking Florida in Nashville. The only league team that won on the road Saturday was Mississippi State, who pulled out a 56-50 win at LSU.

While I can't speak for the rest of the SEC, I can tell you that Tennessee had it all backwards in Columbia Saturday. Check out the stats:

Final Stats
  Tennessee South Carolina
Field Goals 21-55 (38%) 29-54 (54%)
3-Point FGs 6-20 (30%) 13-28 (46%)
Assists 8 15
Free Throws 16-21 (76%) 10-15 (67%)
Rebounds 37 (14 off, 23 def) 28 (4 off, 24 def)
Turnovers 13 8

The things the Vols do well when they win (3-pointers, assists, forcing turnovers) were done better by the Gamecocks. The irony is that while free throws and rebounds have been a frustrating hindrance for the Vols this season, Tennessee finally outperformed their competition in those categories, and it didn't matter.

So now with the Vols sitting at 6-6 in the SEC and 18-9 overall, let's look at what they've got left on the schedule:

  • 2/21 Alabama (#23 RPI as of Feb. 18)
  • 2/24 @ Arkansas (#41)
  • 2/27 Florida (#7)
  • 3/03 @ Georgia (#51)
Interestingly, only one of those teams, Florida, has a higher RPI than Tennessee (the Vols are #15). The good news is that the two lowest ranked of those teams are Tennessee's road opponents. Of course, South Carolina is only #91, so take it for what it's worth.

The bottom line is that for the Vols to finish at that magic .500 point we've been talking about for a while, they'll either need to win on the road (something they haven't done yet) or beat Florida (something only three teams have done all year). So it looks like the Vols still have some work to do before we put a lock on the bubble talk.