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Bracketology: Tennessee climbs in Lunardi’s latest projection

The Vols are safely in the field right now.

NCAA Basketball: Lipscomb at Tennessee Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

For those that were paying attention over the summer, Tennessee’s quick start isn’t all that surprising. Rick Barnes returned most of his key pieces this year, while adding a few guys that were going to make the Vols a lot deeper.

As you probably know by now, the media picked this squad to finish 13th in the SEC. Through the first leg of the season, these Vols are proving them wrong in a big way.

The national media has taken notice as Tennessee has landed inside the top 25 for back to back weeks now. Joe Lunardi — ESPN’s Bracketology specialist — has had the Volunteers in his tournament projections for three straight weeks now.

Tennessee started as a ten seed, then got bumped up to a seven seed last week. Now they’re up to a six seed this week. Lunardi has the Vols playing the winner of a play-in game between two eleven seeds.

Heading into the season, I thought this was a group that would be solidly in the tournament field. They’ve proven that thought to be correct, and then some. They’ve got a huge shot this Sunday to really vault themselves into the national spotlight with the No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels coming to town.

This is the biggest, most meaningful game we’ve seen at the Tommy Bowl in sometime. I’m fascinated to see how they respond.