NCAA talk premature

With a 12-3 record and a No. 19 national ranking, the Volunteer Express appears on track for Tennessee's first NCAA Basketball Tournament bid in five years. Then again, the train has scarcely left the station.

That's why UT head coach Bruce Pearl says Big Orange fans and players shouldn't be envisioning a bid to The Dance just yet.

"No, not yet," he says. "The math doesn't allow it. You've got to win at least half of your games in conference play and we've won three. We've played four, and we've got 12 left. After four conference games, with 12 left, I just think it's too early. There's 12 games left against teams capable of beating us."

Given their 9-2 non-conference record, the Vols probably can lock up an NCAA Tournament bid by going 8-8 in the SEC. They are 3-1 thus far, so they must win five more games to assure themselves of a non-losing league record.

As Pearl noted: "Knowing we need to win at least half of ‘em to be there, it's way too soon."

The fact Tennessee has so-called "quality wins" over No. 6 Texas and No. 2 Florida undoubtedly will help UT's chances of earning a bid to The Dance. Even so, the Vols might need 18 wins to assure themselves of an invitation.

"If we get enough (total wins), if the math works out, then these wins over two top-five teams – plus playing well at Memphis – will absolutely help us when it comes to getting in and getting seeded," Pearl said. "But if we don't complete the math it won't matter."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories