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2018 Bracketology: Vols Still Outside Looking In

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Six SEC teams are in Joe Lunardi’s initial projection, but Tennessee isn’t one of them.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Georgia vs Tennessee Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early, it’s meaningless, and I can help clicking on it: Joe Lunardi’s first bracket for next year is out, and the Vols aren’t in it.

Tennessee must replace Robert Hubbs and Lew Evans and lost Kwe Parker to transfer, but gets almost all of its production back, will get John Fulkerson healthy, and will bring in Jalen Johnson as a redshirt freshman and Rick Barnes’ first four-star signee at Tennessee in Yves Pons. The Vols should be better.

But so will almost everyone in an SEC you’d better take seriously.

Six SEC teams are in Lundardi’s first field: Florida (1 seed), Kentucky (2), Vanderbilt (8), Alabama (10), South Carolina (10), and Arkansas (11, in Dayton). Texas A&M is in Lunardi’s Next Four Out.

It’s one man’s opinion, but this does put the Vols at no better than eighth in the SEC a year after finishing ninth. Also not pictured: young teams from Auburn and Mississippi State with prolific coaches of their own. We’re going to see incredibly meaningful and competitive games in the SEC every night next season. But if you’re looking for a big leap from the Vols...well, so are most of the rest of the league’s teams. Should be fun to watch.