Conference play has been tough on Tennessee. The Volunteers are now sitting at 8-6 in league play and have tumbled all the way to No. 25 in the latest AP poll with just a handful of games left to play ahead of tournament season. At some point, inconsistent no longer covers what this team is. They are what they are — a mid-pack NCAA Tournament team.
Following the embarrassing loss at home to Kentucky, bracketologists started reflecting that statement in their latest projections.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi moved Tennessee from the four line all the way down to the six line, tasked with a first round matchup against St. Bonaventure. The Vols were slated in a region with (1) Ohio State, (2) Alabama, (3) West Virginia and (4) Virginia.
Over at CBS Sports, Jerry Palm has Tennessee hanging tough with a No. 4 seed, set to face in-state Belmont in the projected first round. In this bracket, Tennessee lands with (1) Gonzaga, (2) Oklahoma and (3) Iowa.
At USA Today, Tennessee lands as a No. 5 seed, waiting on the winner of a play-in game with Minnesota and Duke. Their projected region includes (1) Baylor, (2) Illinois, (3) Houston and (4) Florida State.
Finally at Fox Sports, Tennessee is a projected No. 6 seed landing in a matchup with 11th-seeded Indiana. (1) Michigan, (2) Villanova, (3) Oklahoma and (4) USC make up the top four seeds in this region.
The Volunteers remain ranked 18th in the NET rankings, going 5-4 in quadrant one matchups. They won’t have an opportunity to make up much ground this week while facing Vanderbilt (6-12) and Auburn (11-12), but just going 2-0 for the week would be a small step forward for this struggling team.
Tennessee is dealing with a couple of key injuries to close the year. Yves Pons is battling through a knee injury, while Josiah-Jordan James has missed the last two games with a wrist issue. Getting those two back to full strength ahead of the SEC tournament is a must.
The NCAA Tournament is currently scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 18th, with the first four games. The traditional round of 64 will begin on Friday and run through Saturday. Selection Sunday will take place on March 14th.