TV: ESPN2 and 65 ads for H&R Block ESPN2
Neither TV nor radio: I've been waiting on UT to realize we're ignoring their Gametracker
Since this isn't the first time the Lady Vols have faced Kentucky, we're not going to spend as much time on who they are. If you're too lazy to click on the link: high-pressure defense team who can only kind of shoot coached by a guy whose hair I'll make fun of in a few hundred words. There! You're all caught up. Tennessee obliterated Baby Kentucky on Thursday, winning 69-49.
Let's talk about what this game means instead.
WITH A TENNESSEE WIN
1. For all intents and purposes, this will lock Tennessee into a top-two position in the SEC, barring something stupid happening. Unless you're a strong believer in the power of either Alabama or Vanderbilt to win in Knoxville, this sets up a winner-takes-the-SEC showdown with South Carolina on the 23rd at 9 PM that is absolutely worth clearing your calendar for.
2. It also keeps Tennessee in 1-seed position for the NCAA Tournament. This surprises me, honestly, but one of their major criteria is out-of-conference scheduling, and one of the other teams in the 1-seed conversation is Baylor. We make endless jokes about Baylor's schedule for a reason. In a weird RPI quirk, the SEC (six ranked teams) is second in conference RPI behind the Big 12 (one ranked team), but the bottom of the Big 12 is better than the bottom of the SEC and that matters in RPI, too. Baylor's #2 in RPI behind Tennessee at #1, so ...yeah, Tennessee probably has to beat South Carolina once to hold onto that 1 seed is where we're going with this.
3. With staying in 1-seed position comes what's likely a top-15 team instead of a top-10 team in the Sweet 16. For a Tennessee team that's struggled on the road this year, that's a big difference. A win against a top-15 team at a neutral site is doable; top-10 means they might get bounced in the Sweet 16. (We'll leave it as a discussion for later what their Elite Eight odds look like, since that South Carolina game will tell us a lot.)
4. For Kentucky, a loss knocks them into a complex mess of a 3-6 range between Mississippi State, LSU, and Texas A&M. (Georgia should be in this mix too, but, well, Georgia.) South Carolina's likely giving Kentucky and MSU another loss and LSU ends the season against TAMU (who also plays Kentucky), so 3rd could come down to whoever wins the Nikki Caldwell-Gary Blair showdown. Then again, Georgia could also beat LSU because that's what they do. Either way, that group is going to be 3-6 come SEC Tournament time barring some pretty serious collapses.
WITH A KENTUCKY WIN
1. Tennessee's on the 2-seed line in the NCAA Tournament for sure. They'd have an outside chance at getting dumped to the 3-seed, but I think they'd need a second non-South Carolina-inflicted loss to really be in danger. That makes the rest of the regular season even more anti-climatic than it already is.
2. Kentucky gives themselves some separation in the race for the 3 seed, making the odds of a Part 3 to the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry pretty high. You think that the SEC might notice there's a good basketball rivalry there and maybe try and get the men playing each other a little bit often? Yeah, neither do I but it was a good idea.
3. Matthew Mitchell and Matthew Mitchell's hair will continue to get press coverage as this potential danger, even though once it's solved it typically stays solved. Baylor, by the way: 0-2 against Kentucky over the last two years.
PREDICTION: 77-68 Tennessee. Hooper's going with 71-63 Tennessee.
MORE TIME FOR MOORE: At the 17-minute mark of the first half, 9 minutes overall.