Tennessee’s men’s basketball team is in the middle of a record-setting season. And according to the NCAA Selection Committee, they could set even more program records once March arrives if they continue on their current pace.
The first NCAA March Madness Bracket Preview show of the 2018-19 basketball season aired on Saturday afternoon on CBS. During the show, the selection committee revealed their top 16 seeds of the 68-team NCAA Tournament if the tournament started today, and Tennessee was listed as one of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament.
The Vols, of course, have never been a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee (21-1, 9-0 SEC) was placed as the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament field, falling in line just behind Duke — who was awarded the top overall seed in the first projected bracket.
And apparently, it was a very tough decision between choosing the Vols and Duke for the top overall seed.
“Duke and Tennessee were essentially 1 and 1a; it was that close,” said Bernard Muir, the chair of the NCAA Tournament selection committee and Stanford’s Athletics Director. “A slight edge in some of the metrics was the difference in Duke getting the overall top seed. Virginia was a solid No. 3 team on the top line, and Gonzaga got the fourth No. 1 seed based largely on the teams they’ve beaten and the quality of the opponents they’ve lost to.”
Strength of schedule was one of the major differences between choosing Duke over Tennessee for the No. 1 overall seed. According to Ken Pomeroy’s metrics, Tennessee has the No. 55 strength of schedule in the country, and Duke has the No. 21 strength of schedule.
Per KenPom’s overall rankings, Duke is the No. 2 team in the country, and the Vols come in at No. 5 in his metrics. Those rankings have Virginia as the top overall team in college basketball. The Vols are No. 4 in the new NET rankings — which replaces the RPI for the selection committee this year — while Duke comes in at No. 3 in those rankings.
Here’s a look at the top 16 seeds according to the selection committee:
If the tournament started today… pic.twitter.com/amdEdgODcB
— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) February 9, 2019
Tennessee’s bracket in the South region features the No. 7 overall seed in North Carolina as a two-seed, the No. 9 overall seed in Purdue as a three-seed, and the No. 14 overall seed in Nevada as a four-seed.
The Vols have never been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve twice earned a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance, but that’s the highest Tennessee has ever been for the tournament. Last year, Tennessee was a three-seed for the NCAA Tournament. They won their first round match-up with Wright State, but they fell in the second round to Loyola-Chicago in the midst of their cinderella run. The Ramblers would go on to make it to the Final Four last season.
Right now, Tennessee is No. 1 in the country in both the AP and Coaches Poll, and they’re riding a program-record 17-game winning streak. This season marks only the second time in school history that Tennessee has been the No. 1 team in college basketball, and they’ve set a program record for most consecutive weeks atop the polls at three.
Tennessee has also set a school record for most consecutive regular season conference victories. The Vols have won 13-straight regular season SEC games dating back to last season.