Tennessee Basketball: Despite Mississippi State Loss, Vols Still in Position for NCAA Tournament

Despite losing to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, men’s Tennessee basketball is still in great NCAA Tournament shape. Here’s where the Volunteers stand.

After the men’s bracketology reports that came out Monday combined with the RPI ranking, the impact of Tennessee basketball’s loss on the road to the Mississippi State Bulldogs is now clear.

It was more of a missed opportunity to cement themselves in the tournament as opposed to something that knocked them off the bubble.

Despite the loss, Rick Barnes’s team still improved its standing in every way over the week before, and that has to count for something.

Joe Lunardi’s bracketology has the Vols as a First Four Out team, meaning they’re squarely on the bubble.

According to BracketMatrix overall, the Vols are averaging a First Four Out position, but they are in the tournament in nine brackets.

Meanwhile, they are still in the Top 40 of the RPI thanks to a Top 5 strength of schedule.

So with a 13-10 record, 12-10 by RPI recognition, their chances at reaching the NCAA Tournament are squarely in their hands.

And that’s because of what’s about to come up.

Tennessee has numerous winnable games on the horizon that will boost its strength of schedule along with its record.

This is a huge week as they have two games against fellow SEC bubble teams the Ole Miss Rebels and Georgia Bulldogs. Both games are at home, meaning they will likely be favored to win both as well.

After that, they have a road game at Kentucky, and should they win both games this week, it’s a loss they can afford.

Then they get the Missouri Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores at home in back to back games.

So conceivably, the Vols should be likely to win four of their next five games with three Top 60 RPI wins.

That will thrust them into the NCAA Tournament for sure.

And their final three games are at South Carolina, at LSU, and at home against Alabama. Again, South Carolina should be their only loss in those three games.

So overall, Tennessee could very easily win six of its final eight games. That would get them to 19-12 with a Top 5 strength of schedule. There’s no way they wouldn’t be in the tournament then.

Taking all that into account, Mississippi State was a bad loss, and it’s another game they let slip away. But it only puts a little more pressure on them in the upcoming games.

In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t hurt too much.

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