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No, Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament hopes aren’t dead

However, no more bad losses and a 6-2 finish are necessary.

So that wasn’t good at all. Tennessee dropped a must-win game to Mississippi State 64-59. They played a terrible, pathetic excuse of a game, but were not helped by officiating so incompetent it may be worthy of a Nobel Prize for sheer breadth in achievement. That’s life in the SEC: officiating is terrible and has zero accountability. We all know this.

I’m not normally a glass-half-full type, so it’s weird for me to write this. But…Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament hopes, contrary to what you’ve read, are not dead. In fact, it’s still pretty realistic for them to get in.

Take all of what we discussed two-plus weeks ago after the win over Kentucky. All of that still stands. Tennessee still needs the following to make the NCAA Tournament:

  • Finish the regular season at 18-13 or better
  • Get to 20 wins total with either one or two SEC Tournament wins
  • Finish 11-7 in SEC play
  • Avoid *another* terrible loss

Yes, the loss was awful. But take a look at what’s above: all four of those goals are still attainable for Tennessee. Prior to today, Ken Pomeroy at had Tennessee finishing at 19-12, 11-7 in the SEC. That meant losing three of the below games:

I understand that his projections, at face value, would mean for Tennessee to have won today’s game and actually finish 20-11/12-6. However, those nine games add up to a win-loss projection of 5.74-3.26. Tennessee’s most likely scenario was to lose a third game along with Kentucky and South Carolina. If that’s Mississippi State, it’s not great, but not quite as disastrous as a loss to Ole Miss, Missouri, or LSU.

So: was today’s outcome okay in any way? Not at all. But does it mean Tennessee’s run to the NCAA Tournament is totally over? No. It just means the margin for error got a lot slimmer. Basically: don’t lose another stupid game where a nonexistent elbow to the face is a flagrant foul.

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