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Tennessee Receives Improved Seed in Way-Too-Early March Madness Projection

Tennessee Basketball
Vol Hoops’ Zakai Zeigler. Photo via Tennessee Athletics

There are still 190 days until November, but hey, let’s talk a little college basketball.

With the season still in the rearview mirror, teams have begun their offseason by focusing on player evaluations and roster movement. Tennessee has brought in three players from the transfer portal in hopes of quickly bolstering parts of their roster with USC Upstate guard Jordan Gainey, Harvard forward Chris Ledlum, and Northern Colorado wing Dalton Knecht.

The Vols still have plenty of shuffling to do when it comes to the returning players and the incoming prep players, but either way, Tennessee is hard at work in the first month following their Sweet 16 loss to Florida Atlantic in New York City.

Speaking of the tournament, though, ESPN expert Joe Lunardi released a Way-Too-Early 2024 NCAA Tournament projection on Tuesday morning. And despite Tennessee likely losing solid talent this offseason, the Vols are projected to have their best seed since the 2019 season.

Lunardi’s projections on Tuesday have Tennessee as the No. 2 seed in the East (Boston) region. Lunardi has Duke as the overall No. 1 seed in that region with Purdue as the No. 3 seed. Other notable East Region projections include 2023 runner-up San Diego State as the No. 4 seed, Creighton as the No. 5, Florida as the No. 8, and Memphis as the No. 10 seed with a potential matchup against Tennessee in the second round of the tournament.

“It’s a good thing there are still scholarship limits in college basketball, otherwise there’s no telling how many players teams like Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee would sign from the transfer portal,” Lunardi wrote. “No set of conference rivals has hit the portal harder than these three SEC teams, which now rank fifth, sixth and eighth overall on our new seed list. Throw in Texas A&M at No. 16 overall and that’s four SEC teams on the top four lines of the latest bracket.”

More from RTI: Analyzing Tennessee Basketball’s Roster Crunch After A Successful Week In The Transfer Portal

Even though it’s just a hypothetical and a projection some 10-11 months away from the tournament, a Tennessee-Memphis 2-10 matchup in the second round screams drama, drama, and even more drama.

The Vols received a No. 4 seed in the 2023 tournament and defeated No. 13 Louisiana and No. 5 Duke before losing to No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the Sweet 16.

Tennessee had a No. 3 seed in the 2022 tournament and defeated No. 14 Longwood before losing to No. 11 Michigan in the second round of the tournament in Indianapolis.

The Vols’ last No. 2 seed game was in 2019 when Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield led Tennessee to a Sweet 16 appearance by defeating No. 15 Colgate and No. 11 Iowa before losing to No. 3 Purdue in overtime.

Joe Lundardi’s seven teams from the Southeastern Conference are tied for the second-most from a conference. Lunardi also has the Big 12 with seven teams while the Big Ten leads the way with eight teams.

Here’s a look at how Lunardi has the rest of the SEC lined up in the tournament. For the most part, it’s the usual suspects near the top of the SEC standings:

East Region (Boston)

  • No. 2 Tennessee
  • No. 8 Florida

Midwest Region (Detroit)

  • No. 2 Arkansas

West Region (Los Angeles)

  • No. 4 Texas A&M
  • No. 7 Kentucky

South Region (Dallas)

  • No. 2 Alabama
  • No. 9 Auburn

For a detailed look into Tennessee Basketball’s offseason roster jam, check out Rocky Top Insider’s breakdown here.

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