Bubble Watch: Tennessee Volunteers Remain in Tournament Field Even With Loss
We are only one day away from the bracket being unveiled and there is still so much at stake for team’s trying to make a final pitch to get into the Big Dance, but who will capitalize on their opportunities and earn a tournament bid? The Tennessee Volunteers had a chance to leave no doubt about their tournament status with a win against the country’s top-ranked team Saturday, but the Vols failed to close the game in the second half and imploded down the stretch.
Tennessee was unable to earn a spot in the SEC championship and solidify a tournament berth as the Vols fell to the Florida Gators by a score of 56-49 Saturday in the semifinals of the conference tournament. The Volunteers squandered a seven-point halftime lead as the team was held to just 14 point in the second half. Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae combined for 28 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort. The difference-maker in the game proved to be Florida’s Patric Young, who scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds that moved the Gators into the SEC championship game.
Even with the loss, Tennessee should be firmly in the tournament field as the team’s resume is that of a tournament team. While the Vols have an RPI of 41 and a strength of schedule of 25, Tennessee possesses one of the best wins in the country as the Volunteers defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 87-52 in December. The Volunteers 20-12 record is on par with the bubble teams across the country, but Tennessee has passed the eye test with flying colors the past week while other bubble teams have sunk like a rock in the past month or so.
Tennessee will probably enter the NCAA tournament as an 11 or 12 seed, but don’t be surprised if the Vols are still dancing on the second weekend of the tournament as the team is meshing at just the right time.
Greg Douglas is a College Basketball writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93 or add him to your Google Network.