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Bracketology: Tennessee begins conference play as a projected No. 2 seed

Where things stand to start SEC play.

NCAA Basketball: Austin Peay at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee basketball just wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule (outside of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge vs. Texas), now it’s time for conference play. The Volunteers are 10-2 after seven weeks of play, already holding big time resume wins over Kansas and Maryland.

The Volunteers are ranked 7th in the latest AP Poll, and are currently favored in the gambling markets to win the SEC. They’ve done all of this so far essentially without a senior leader in Josiah-Jordan James, who continues to nurse a sore knee. His status remains day-to-day going forward.

“No change,” Rick Barnes said of James. “He’s doing a little bit more with Chad (Newman) and Garrett (Medenwald), but with us, he’ll warm up with us a little bit, but he hasn’t gotten in on five-on-five stuff yet.”

Entering conference play, Tennessee is a projected No. 2 seed, according to ESPN. Joe Lunardi has the Volunteers landing in the South Region, paired with with No. 1 seeded Purdue. Not that it means much now, but Lunardi has Tennessee taking on No. 15 seed Furman in the first round.

Tennessee currently sits third in the NCAA’s NET rankings, trailing only Houston and UConn. The Volunteers are 2-1 in quad one and 2-1 in quad two. Tennessee also ranks third in KenPom, still ranked as the top defense in the country.

With conference play beginning and the SEC already showing plenty of depth, the Vols will have plenty of opportunities to move up to the No. 1 seed line. Tennessee leads the way in terms of AP Poll rankings in the league, but they are closely followed by No. 8 Alabama and No. 9 Arkansas. No. 19 Kentucky will figure things out as they always do, while the always-dangerous Auburn comes in at No. 20. No. 21 Mississippi State rounds out the SEC teams in the polls, but LSU and Missouri have also shown some early flashes.

Tennessee opens conference play tonight with a trip to Ole Miss (5 p.m. ET, SEC Network).