The Vols will make the tournament - Jared Dugger
Even with a crucial loss to Georgia this weekend, the Vols will still be dancing come tournament time.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi had Tennessee as one of the first four teams out of the tournament coming in to the Georgia game, but even after the loss, Tennessee has moved up and are currently his last team in the field.
Several teams vying for a spot with Tennessee will undoubtedly suffer some losses between now and Selection Day. Most importantly though, the Vols have to win their two remaining regular season games.
Tennessee absolutely has to tame two different Tigers this week. If the Vols, who should be heavily favored, can take care of the Tigers of Auburn, then it will set up a huge showdown with the Tigers of Missouri.
Missouri was highly-ranked in the preseason, but they have struggled at times this year, particularly on the road and in close games. Given the way the Vols have performed at home this season, this is definitely a winnable game.
Closing out the regular season with two victories would put Tennessee at 19-11 overall and 11-7 in the SEC, and it would add another important quality victory against Missouri to their tournament resume. It would also set them up nicely for the SEC tournament.
Barring a total collapse, the Vols will get a bye in the first round of the SEC tournament. Tennessee will likely have to get to the fourth round to force the Selection Committee to take notice. One thing going in the Vols' favor is the amount of bubble teams in the SEC.
Of the four SEC teams on the bubble, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Alabama (all of whom lost this weekend), it is likely that whoever advances the farthest in the SEC tournament will make the NCAA tournament. The SEC will probably get four teams in, meaning a championship game appearance will possibly clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Assuming other bubble teams around the country lose, which they will, and some of the Mid-Major powers like Gonzaga, Butler, and VCU can earn their conferences' automatic bids, it would be hard to deny a Tennessee team with potentially a top 50 RPI, 20-plus wins, a high strength of schedule and big wins over tournament-locks such as Wichita State, Florida, and possibly Missouri.
The Vols have the ability to get all of this done. The only question is will they. With all the uncertainty surrounding the SEC and college basketball in general, there is no reason why Cuonzo Martin and his boys in orange can't.
The Vols will not make the tournament -John Hadden
Even though the Vols are a team that is trending upward at the right time of the year, it is going to be difficult for them to get in the Big Dance.
One of the main reasons that Tennessee may be sitting on the outside looking in is the national perception of the SEC this season. With only one team ranked in the top-25 and perennial powerhouses like Kentucky and Vanderbilt not playing up to par, many experts are calling the 2012-2013 season a down year for the SEC.
The effect on Tennessee is two-fold. First, it means that they are going to have to be perfect down the stretch.
The Vols have reeled off a 6-1 record over their last seven games, but the loss to Georgia is a very big one. The Bulldogs have been trending down, and before Saturday they had only won one out of their last five games.
This is yet another down side to the SEC being down this season. With the lack of top-end teams, there are not very many quality wins to get. Games on the road against Auburn and Georgia are bubble killers because if the Vols win, it does nothing to help the cause, but if they lose, it puts the Vols squarely out of the tournament.
Therefore, barring a SEC tournament title and an automatic bid to the Big Dance, I believe the Vols will be heading to the NIT. Playing back to back road games and then coming home to play a tough Missouri team will be too much for the Vols to overcome.
However, it should not take away from what these men have done on the court. The emergence of Jordan McRae as an elite scorer along with the great play of Trae Golden and Jarnell Stokes is something that Vol Nation should be very excited about for next season.