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Bracketology: Will Tennessee Land a Top Two Seed In the Tournament?

Tennessee basketball
Tennessee basketball HC Rick Barnes and PG Zakai Zeigler. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

Could Tennessee land a top-two seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament this March?

While it’s still way too early to say, one highly respected college basketball analyst is projecting it through this point in the season with 11 games in the rearview mirror.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has had Tennessee (8-3) up to the No. 2 seed in the South Region (Dallas) of the March Madness tournament. The Vols’ placement is one spot higher than Lunardi had them in his rankings from last week.

Lunardi’s projection has Tennessee taking on No. 15 Vermont in the opening round, followed by a matchup against the winner of No. 7 Colorado and No. 10 Providence in the Round of 32.

While the projected South Region doesn’t have as many familiar faces as it did last week, there are still a handful of fascinating teams spread out through Lunardi’s Dallas region projection.

Kansas, a team that Tennessee lost to in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational tournament, is placed as the No. 1 seed. The projections also have Illinois as the three-seed in the South Region after the Vols defeated the Fighting Illini in Knoxville in early December. Tennessee defeated Illinois by a score of 86-79 thanks to a big second-half effort and 21 points from Dalton Knecht.

The other notable South Region projection is the Kentucky Wildcats as the No. 5 seed. The Vols will travel to Lexington for a matchup against the Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Tennessee will then host Kentucky in the regular season finale on Saturday, March 9, at 4:00 p.m. ET in Knoxville.

The Vols and Wildcats each have four wins over the other in their last eight meetings.

More from RTI: Tennessee Basketball Moves Back Into Top 10 Of AP Poll

So, back to the original question, can Tennessee land a top-two seed?

Again, it’s virtually impossible to say without conference play even starting yet. There are several factors including other teams’ success, injuries (see Zakai Zeigler, Feb. 2023), and just overall play from Tennessee that will sort itself out over the next two to three months of action.

That being said, though, Tennessee does have a promising team led by veterans. According to a stat from Vol Hoops on social media on Tuesday, all five of Tennessee’s starting players have recorded at least one 20-point game through the Vols’ first 11 contests. What’s also interesting about that line is that six of the eight total 20-point showings have come away from Knoxville either on a neutral site or an opponent’s court.

  • Zakai Zeigler: 20 vs NC State
  • Santiago Vescovi: 21 vs Kansas
  • Dalton Knecht: 24 at Wisconsin, 27 at UNC, 21 vs Illinois
  • Josiah-Jordan James: 20 at UNC, 23 vs NC State
  • Jonas Aidoo: 29 vs Georgia Southern

For a full look at Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology report for ESPN, click here.

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