It’s early February, but Tennessee basketball has a good chance of being a selected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I know, it doesn’t seem possible, right? I mean, Tennessee was projected to finished 13th in the SEC standings this year according to media voters.
However, Seth Walder, a sports analytics writer for ESPN, says Tennessee has the best chance to earn a No. 1 seed per BPI:
Surprise losses by Duke and Kansas yesterday opened up the race for the fourth No. 1 seed (with Villanova, Virginia and Purdue near-locks). Behind them, chance to earn a No. 1 seed, per BPI:
Michigan State: 11%
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) February 4, 2018
Notice the percentages of each team. Tennessee at 24 percent and Duke at 22. After that, no other team is that close. It is about time people start paying attention to this team.
Tennessee is 17-5 overall and 7-3 in the SEC. They are currently on a five-game winning streak and winners of the past eight of ten. Winning streaks haven’t been unusual for the Vols this year. Before losing to Missouri, Tennessee had a three-game winning streak. Earlier this year, the Vols had a four-game winning streak rolling into the North Carolina game.
In the past six games, Tennessee has held each opponent to under 65 points. The past three games have been even better: the Vols have outscored Iowa State, LSU and Ole Miss 246-167. The results were two 20-plus point wins and one 33-point blowout.
The NCAA selection committee has to love Tennessee’s resume. The Vols are currently ranked 13th in RPI with the 23rd strength of schedule. They own winning records at neutral sites (2-1) and road games (5-2).
Even more, they have three wins against top 50 in RPI, one of them being Purdue. Most importantly, all five losses have come from teams in the top 35 of RPI.
The talk is premature, but realistic. The next five games for Tennessee will determine if a No. 1 seed is plausible. With the way the Vols are playing, I think they will continue to prove to the country they are contenders to win not just an SEC title, but a national title as well.