Vols Listed as Early Favorites for a No. 1 Seed

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    Tennessee’s men’s basketball team is off to one of their best starts in program history. And national analysts have taken notice.

    Over the weekend, one national college basketball analyst said the Vols are the best team in college basketball right now, and another likened UT’s team to the 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. Now, a prominent NCAA Tournament “bracketologist” has the Vols as one of his early favorites to earn a No. 1 seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament.

    Jerry Palm of CBS Sports put out an early bracketology update after the first month and a half of the college basketball season, and he has the Vols sliding in as one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee and Michigan leapfrogged Duke and Kentucky onto Palm’s one-seed line. Duke has slid down to a No. 2 seed while Kentucky has slipped all the way down to an 11-seed with their uninspiring start to the 2018-19 season.

    The Vols — who are currently ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll — join Michigan, Virginia, and Kansas as Palm’s one-seeds in mid-December. His No. 2 seeds are Texas Tech, Duke, Gonzaga, and Nevada. Tennessee has already played both Kansas and Gonzaga, defeating the Bulldogs and losing to the Jayhawks in overtime.

    Palm and CBS Sports aren’t the only media outlets predicting the Vols as a No. 1 seed this early in the season, though.

    According to TeamRankings.com, Tennessee has a 31 percent chance of earning a No. 1 seed right now. That’s the fourth-highest chance of any college basketball team according to their algorithm. Their analysis gives the Vols a 76 percent chance of earning a seed in the 1-4 range and predict Tennessee will end the season with a 25-6 regular season record.

    Tennessee has never earned a No. 1 seed in men’s basketball. The Vols have twice earned a No. 2 seed and were a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year. The 2006 Vols were a two-seed and got eliminated in the second round, and the 2008 Vols earned a No. 2 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen before getting blown out by No. 3 seed Louisville, 79-60.

    As a three-seed last year, the Vols made it to the second round before losing to Cinderella team Loyola-Chicago, 63-62. Loyola-Chicago would end up making it to the Final Four in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

    Tennessee’s 8-1 record through nine games this season is the program’s best start to a season since the 2009-10 team also won eight of their first nine games. That team would go on to finish the year with a 28-9 record and made it to UT’s only Elite Eight appearance in school history. The Vols’ best start to a season in modern history has been a 16-1 record, and that’s happened twice. Tennessee started the year 16-1 in the 2007-08 season and had the same record through 17 games in the 2000-01 season.

    The Vols will look to continue their winning ways when they take on Samford in Knoxville at 7:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday, December 19th.



    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.