Bruce Almighty

The 95-78 thrashing Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Vols hung on Texas Saturday in Austin could prove to be a lot more than a stirring victory.

1. It was a nationally televised defeat of a nationally ranked team.

2. It was the kind of impressive performance that could earn UT some votes in the national polls.

3. It was the kind of "quality win" the NCAA Selection Committee looks for each March when determining which of the teams "on the bubble" will get bids.

4. It showed the Vols that, when they play at their highest level, they can line up with just about anybody.

Before the season, I predicted Tennessee would go 8-3 in non-conference games, losing to Texas, Oklahoma State and Memphis. I predicted the Vols would go 7-9 in Southeastern Conference play, giving them a combined regular-season record of 15-12.

Beating Texas means there's a good chance the Vols can go 9-2 in their non-league outings. Assuming my 7-9 SEC prediction is correct – a big assumption, I'll grant you – that would put the Big Orange at 16-11 heading into the SEC Tournament. A first-round win there would leave Tennessee with a 17-12 record and squarely "on the bubble."

Though elated by Saturday's victory, Pearl downplayed the upset of Texas by noting that the Longhorns didn't exactly have the Vols circled on their schedule, whereas the game was huge for Tennessee.

Granted, Texas wasn't nearly as fired up as Tennessee.

Granted, future foes won't be taking the Vols lightly, as the Longhorns apparently did.

Granted, this was just one game, and it's far too early to be speculating about NCAA Tournament seedings.

Still, Tennessee's win at Texas was HUGE for the four reasons mentioned above. Foremost among these is No. 3. Bubble teams with quality wins get NCAA bids. Bubble teams without them don't.

Now Tennessee just has to win enough games to get on the bubble.


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