Tennessee has never made an appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. They’ve made it to the Elite Eight just once since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and that was during their 2010 run. The Vols finished painstakingly close to getting to the Final Four that year, losing 70-69 to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
Now that the 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket is set, we know who the Vols’ first round match-up is against and who their other potential match-ups are in their region. And that begs the question: Just how far can this team go?
A former coach already picked the Vols to make history and make it to their first Final Four in program history on Sunday. But what are the odds Tennessee can actually do that?
According to Bovada, an online betting site, the Vols have the 15th-best odds of winning the whole tournament. They’re tied with fellow No. 3 seed Texas Tech with 40/1 odds of winning the title. Villanova is the favorite with 6/1 odds, and Virginia, the No. 1 seed in Tennessee’s region, has the second-best chance with 13/2 odds.
But we’re not talking about winning the title here. How about just getting to the first Final Four in school history first?
Bovada has four teams in Tennessee’s region with better odds of winning the title than the Vols. Virginia (2nd), Arizona (5th), Cincinnati (6th), and Kentucky (13th) all have better odds at winning the title, and thus have better odds of making it to the Final Four.
But that’s just what this year’s betting lines say. What does history tell us about No. 3 seeds making the Final Four?
According to data compiled by BetFirm.com, three-seeds have made it to the Final Four the third-most times since the field expanded to 64 teams. No. 3 seeds have made 15 Final Four appearances in the last 33 NCAA Tournaments. Only No. 1 seeds (54 appearances) and No. 2 seeds (28 appearances) have made it there more. No. 4 seeds have gone that far 13 times, and No. 5 seeds have made it to the Final Four just six times over the last three-plus decades.
BetFirm.com’s analytics state that a No. 3 seed has an 11.4 percent chance of making it to the Final Four. No. 1 seeds make it about 41 percent of the time, and No. 2 seeds get there 21.2 percent of the time.
Last year, No. 3 seed Oregon made the Final Four out of the Midwest region. But before that, it had been six years since a No. 3 seed made the Final Four. UConn made it as a three-seed in 2011 and won the whole tournament title that season. Villanova (2009), Georgia Tech (2004), Marquette (2003), and Maryland (2001) are the only other No. 3 seeds to make it to the Final Four since 2000.
As a No.3 seed, the Vols don’t have a particularly easy path to the Final Four, especially not in their region. But the odds say it’s far from impossible for Tennessee to make it to their first Final Four in program history, even if it’s highly improbable that they do.
Tennessee has been defying the odds for most of the 2017-18 season. Now it’s time to see if they can do it in the tournament too.