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Tennessee Basketball in the SEC Tournament: Vols Must Win a Game This Week to Avoid Wednesday

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There's still work to do in the final week of the regular season to avoid an extra game in Nashville.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball's wild 2016 ride continues as we enter the final week of the regular season.  Casting our eyes toward Nashville, there is little settled in SEC Tournament seeding thanks to no team being able to break away at the top and only ineligible Missouri doing so at the bottom.  Kentucky and Texas A&M are tied at 11-5, with LSU, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt all at 10-6.  And if you think it's just a parity-driven year in the SEC, think again:  only three major conference teams have less than four losses in conference play (Indiana, Kansas, and Villanova).  Only five major conference teams have less than six losses period.  Your bracket is bathed in gasoline.

For the Vols, there's still plenty of drama left at the bottom of the league as well.  Tennessee is 6-10 in the SEC with only a trip to Vanderbilt tonight and a home date with Ole Miss on Saturday remaining.  Last year the Vols finished 7-11 in league play, which was good for 10th.  The Vols can still match or exceed that number (which is unlikely given Tennessee's inability to win away from Knoxville) this season.  But what is most important to note now is, the Vols are going to have to win a game this week to avoid the play-in game Wednesday in the SEC Tournament.

Team Speed Kills has the full bracketology update for the SEC Tournament.  The Vols are tied with Mississippi State at 6-10, with Auburn a game back at 5-11.  The biggest problem for Tennessee is the Bulldogs and Tigers face each other on Saturday, which means one of them has to win.  Tennessee would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with Mississippi State thanks to its only road win of the season.  But Auburn would win a three-way tiebreaker at 6-12 or a head-to-head tiebreaker with Tennessee further down the chain.

The Vols are guaranteed to avoid Wednesday if they go 2-0 this week, guaranteed to play Wednesday if they go 0-2.  If Tennessee goes 1-1 this week, the only way they'd play on Wednesday is if either of the other two teams goes 2-0.  But since they play each other Saturday, if the Vols lose to Vanderbilt tonight and both the Bulldogs and Tigers win their midweek games, Tennessee will be locked in to Wednesday in the SEC Tournament no matter what they do against Ole Miss.  Auburn is hosting Texas A&M at 9:00 PM tonight, Mississippi State is at Ole Miss tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.

So your most likely scenario for the Vols avoiding Wednesday is all three teams in contention losing their midweek games, then Tennessee beating Ole Miss on Saturday.  Should only one of Mississippi State or Auburn lose this week, we'll need that team to win when the Tigers visit Starkville on Saturday.

Of course, we can change this whole conversation if the Vols beat Vanderbilt in Nashville tonight.  But with still no Kevin Punter and a still questionable Robert Hubbs?  And the Vols on the road playing the team I think has been the single greatest match-up problem for them all year?

Tune in at 7:00 PM tonight on the SEC Network.  Perhaps we'll be surprised.

Go Vols.