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NCAA Tournament West Region: The Best Possible Draw for Tennessee

Ever wish that more things worked like college brackets? That you could seed everything that way? Top 64 pre-game foods. Top 64 college players. Well, now you can do just that with your friends, with the Allstate BFF Brackets, which takes your 64 top Facebook friends (an algorithm seeds them based on interaction) and seeds them in four regions, exactly like the real tourney. Once the tourney starts, your friends advance with the corresponding seeds – till one is left standing. Check it out here.

The selection committee has taken their beating from college basketball fans and experts alike, and probably rightfully so on a few bubble teams.  But for the first time since 2007, one thing they did get right was Tennessee:  not only did the Vols get the seed they most deserved, but the draw they received is the best possible scenario for a 9 seed.

Perhaps better stated, it's the best possible scenario for this Tennessee team - it's not at all to say that Michigan is so much or any worse than the other 8 seeds (though the final Bracket Matrix had the Wolverines as a 10 seed).  But it's true that these Vols play to the level of their competition, and especially so against name teams.

It makes me feel old to say this, but the players on this Tennessee team are all too young to remember Chris Webber calling timeout against North Carolina in April 1993.  Thankfully, ESPN did a nice job last night making sure everyone remembered.

Even if Michigan ain't what it used to be and even if these Vols only remember Webber in Sacramento, the Wolverines carry a legacy and an image that the other 8 seeds on the board simply do not have.  The other options at 8 are the Holy Triumvirate of Mid-Majors:  UNLV, George Mason, and Butler.  If you've followed this Tennessee team at all this year, before we even begin to discuss on-court matchups, which team are you more convinced UT will play well against:  Michigan, or any of those three?

We'll be diving into the specifics of the Michigan matchup all week.  But if you want to entertain a lookahead, it's best to get it out of the way Monday.  So if the Vols were to beat the Wolverines, which of the four number one seeds would you most like to play?



I'll pass on a rematch with Pitt from this year and Kansas last year - gift horses and mouths and whatnot.  There's a part of me that wanted another round with Ohio State - even though we got them last year, the rampant speculation that the Buckeyes turned in the picture with Bruce Pearl and current OSU guard Aaron Craft would certainly make for an interesting game.  But last year will have to do...and I'm still enjoying it plenty, and I hope they are too.

That leaves Duke, the name team of name teams.  While the Vols see Kentucky on a regular basis and have already bested Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils are on another plane of existence.  Tennessee has played almost every college basketball heavyweight during Pearl's tenure, including Kansas and North Carolina...but Duke remains a mystery.  And for a Tennessee team that always plays its best against name teams under Pearl, there's not another opponent in the field that would bring out our best the way Duke would.

So sure, I'd love to be awaiting the winner of Texas-San Antonio and Alabama State in the first round, and being in the West Region means it's a long flight to Anaheim should UT beat both Michigan and Duke.  But the Vols got what they deserved:  the most even matchup on the board for a team that lives the roller coaster.  And getting what we deserved has never looked better:  two name teams just a short drive away in Charlotte.  It will be a long way from easy.  But I fully believe it will bring out the best in us.