With only a week to go until Selection Sunday, this will be the first installment of what I call Bubble to Bubble. This a look at the cases of two separate teams whose arrows are pointing in opposite directions and how each of them fare. Our first case will look at two teams from big conferences: Seton Hall and Tennessee.
Just a short time ago, Seton Hall seemed like they were almost a surefire lock for the big dance. They only had 2 losses outside of the top 50, and still had amassed 7 top 100 wins. They had solid wins away from home and solid wins in the non-conference. But now, a week later, a home loss in OT to Rutgers and an absolute beatdown at DePaul have clouded the Pirates’ at large hopes. The biggest question to ask may simply be: what happened? Seton Hall at one point was 15-2, and #4 in the RPI. The committee insists they look at the “body of work”, which I believe. But is Seton Hall’s strong start enough to carry them into the tournament? I’m not sure. Let’s put it this way… If they beat Providence, they would then face Louisville. If they win 2 games, they’ll be in. If they get beat by Providence, they’ll be out. The most likely scenario is that they beat Providence and then lose to Louisville, which will mean that the Pirates will be sitting at home on Selection Sunday holding their collective breath. Seton Hall’s star is fading, and they’ll have one opportunity to make their case.
A team headed in the complete opposite direction is the Tennessee Volunteers. After a disastrous start to the season, the Vols have caught fire of late, winning 8 of their final 9 games to remarkably lock up the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament. In most years, the team with the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament is a virtual lock for the big dance, but that is not the case here. The major change was the January addition of top recruit Jarnell Stokes. Stokes decided to be an early entrant to college, and since his arrival the Vols have gone 10-5. They’ve defeated the likes of UConn, Florida, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and LSU… all who recently were considered tournament teams or close to it. Tennessee is in a unique position. They’ll have some opportunities in the SEC Tournament to accumulate a couple more quality wins, and I think they could seize them. If the Vols reach the final against Kentucky, they probably will have done enough at that point to get in. Currently with an RPI of 75, if they can get that number into the mid 60’s, they should be able to be one of the last teams in. A December home loss to Austin Peay has really held them back.
Final Thoughts: Tennessee is a better team than Seton Hall, and if they both were to get in the tournament, the Vols would almost certainly perform better. Right now Seton Hall has the slight edge, but when all is said and done, I believe Tennessee will have the upper hand.