Rocky Topics: Is an NCAA Tournament berth a realistic possibility for Tennessee?

After suffering devastating losses to Georgia and Kentucky, do the Vols have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament?

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 14, 2017 - Guard Jordan Bone #0 of the Tennessee Volunteers huddle during the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. Photo By Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

On this week’s installment of Rocky Topics, Isaac Carver and Jonathan Johnson debate whether or not the Tennessee Volunteers (14-12, 6-7 SEC) till have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament.

Johnson: “Well, it was fun well it lasted” was more than likely the reaction of most Tennessee fans after another loss Tuesday night against Kentucky in Rupp Arena. But, are the Vols’ tournament dreams really crushed? Absolutely not. The first point for Tennessee’s sake is that the teams on the bubble this year are bad. Some of the résumés are equally as bad. Clemson, the team most comparable to the Vols, is actually on the right side of the bubble according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Clemson and Tennessee have the same record at the moment, with the Vols’ possessing a better schedule by about 12 spots. The Tigers’ best win is at South Carolina during non-conference play. If Tennessee is able to win at South Carolina in a week, that win would be even better in the committee’s eyes because the Gamecocks are good deal better now than they were in December. Indiana is another team that Tennessee could be competing with come Selection Sunday, but Indiana has lost five of its last six games. If “what have you done for me lately” comes into play, then Tennessee possibly winning out would surely vault them over a team like Indiana.

Carver: Tennessee has a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. However, there are quite a few problems the team faces. The Vols don’t have a winning record in a shaky SEC and currently sit at eighth in the standings. Arkansas is another bubble team and could very well beat out Tennessee for a ticket to the big dance. It’s one thing to lose to Kentucky, but after getting blown out to the tune of 83-58, the Vols can’t afford another lose. And while Tennessee does have a quality win over the Wildcats and Kansas State, there isn’t much else that stands out. They get South Carolina, but other than that, also play the bottom two teams in the conference in LSU and Missouri. If they lose one of those games, it could spell doom for Tennessee.

Johnson: The second key for the Vols and their tournament dream would be to grab a solid win or two in the SEC Tournament. If Tennessee loses only one more game from here on out, they would finish with a regular season record of 18-13. If they grab a couple of wins in the conference tournament, that’s 20 wins on the season. Only two teams in the Power Six that have won at least 20 games have ever missed out on March Madness. If the Vols pull off a win over a South Carolina or a Florida, the Vols will certainly be invited to the Big Dance. Even with 18 or 19 wins, Tennessee remains in the conversation because the bubble features a ton of weak teams.

Carver: They could win 20 games, but one of the hardships Tennessee has faced all season is its lack of experience and inconsistent guard play. Because of this, the Vols often struggle to close out games, especially since they lack a true leader who can deliver the goods during crunch time.

Johnson: These arguments are great and everything Issac, but you know that all of this could be settled if Tennessee just won the SEC Tournament?

Carver: Yeah right JJ, Bruce couldn’t even do that.

Edited by David Bradford

Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics