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College Basketball: Huge week looming for surging Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols have a couple of big tests ahead.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers are surging. Winners of five in a row and eight of their last nine, the Volunteers are in great shape to earn a top seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Tennessee has work to do down the stretch of SEC play — and no week will be bigger than the one currently facing the Vols.

After navigating the lighter portions of the schedule, it ramps back up over the next several days. Tennessee Volunteers has a trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky on the schedule for Tuesday night, then a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on a pretty good Alabama team faces them on Saturday.

It’s nothing they shouldn’t be able to handle, however. Tennessee beat Kentucky down the stretch last month in Knoxville, as they’ve made a habit of doing over the past few years. The trips to Lexington have been different stories though. Tennessee hasn’t won at Rupp Arena since 2006 — year one of the Bruce Pearl era. This is easily the best team since that Pearl era, too. On the flip-side, this is one of the more mediocre Kentucky teams you’ll ever see.

On Saturday, the Vols will face an inconsistent but talented Alabama team. The Tide have beaten Auburn and Oklahoma in recent weeks, but have also lost to Ole Miss and gotten blown out by Georgia.

Yesterday Alabama ran Florida off their home floor in Gainesville, winning 68-50. They’re tough to figure out, but the (likely) tournament-bound Tide will be a tough road test for sure.

If Tennessee can get through this week unscathed, we can probably start talking about them landing a pretty high seed in the big dance next month. For now, the Volunteers need Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers to drop a couple of games. Tennessee remains two games out of the SEC regular season lead. They currently sit in second place all alone after Saturday’s results.

Tougher games may be one the schedule this week, but I feel pretty confident that this group can handle business on the road.