Take a moment to consider how well the Vols played offensively against Georgia the last time:
- Five turnovers, tied with the win at Vanderbilt for the fewest this season.
- That translated to a 6.4% turnover rate, the best of the season. It is the only game Tennessee lost when turning the ball over on less than 9% of their possessions.
- Grant Williams scored 30 points, tying his career high (Lipscomb). It is the only game Tennessee lost when Williams scored 17+ points.
- Most importantly, the Vols had 19 assists and a combined 13 from Jordan Bone, Lamonte Turner, and Shembari Phillips. Our go-to stat this year is assists: the Vols are 13-1 when they get 16+, 3-14 when they don’t. This game was the one in 13-1.
Tennessee led by two at halftime, but Grant Williams was a big part of an early second half surge putting the Vols up 14 with 15 minutes to play. And then J.J. Frazier happened. His 29 points led the Dawgs back for a 76-75 victory, ending Tennessee’s five-of-six winning streak and starting a five-of-six losing streak that put the Vols off the big bubble and now squarely on the NIT version.
This dude averages 27.7 in a seven game stretch starting with our first meeting, a 5-2 run including a second near miss against Kentucky (Frazier had 36 in that one). They played their way onto the bubble, then played themselves into trouble with an 18-point loss at Arkansas in the regular season finale. His 24 points came on 5-of-15 shooting and 13 free throws in Fayetteville.
Tennessee obviously has to do a better job on him. Expect less of Jordan Bone and more of Shembari Phillips as Rick Barnes has emphasized defense and rightfully so. Georgia shot 51.8% in the first meeting, the fourth-worst performance by Tennessee this year.
If the Vols get past Georgia, how do their NIT hopes look in the middle of Championship Week? At least five bids will go to mid-and-low-major regular season champions so far, six if Illinois State is left out of the big dance.
Here are the latest UT projections from the sites represented in the NIT Bracket Matrix:
- NIT Bracket Project: 5 seed
- Best Damn Bracket Period: 6 seed
- Big Apple Buckets: out
- Bracketball: 3 seed
- Sports Sentiment: 6 seed
- Carolina Sports Thoughts: 4 seed
- DRatings: out
- Jason Wells: out
- Mike Broman: 5 seed
- RTS Ratings: out
As you can see, opinion varies. Four seeds and up host a first round game. I continue to be interested to see how the committee would value the Vols at 17-16 and a Top 70 RPI as opposed to a team like Auburn that’s more games over .500 but significantly worse in RPI. The Vols will have the RPI portion in the bag if they beat Georgia, it’ll just be up to the committee’s discretion on their record.
There’s at least one more game and possibly more on the other side of a win today, but going home is the likely alternative. Tennessee and Georgia kick off day two of the SEC Tournament at 1:00 PM ET on the SEC Network.