Vol chorus: Go Gators!

As unpleasant as it sounds, Tennessee basketball fans should be pulling for the Florida Gators to prevail this Saturday afternoon in Nashville. It may not seem like the ethical thing to do but it's certainly the logical thing to do.

Here's why:

Even if the Vols (18-8 overall, 6-5 SEC) sweep their five remaining games, they are not going to unseat Florida (24-2 overall, 11-0 SEC) in the SEC East. Unless the Gators drop their five remaining games – probably a billion-to-one shot – they'll still win the division and still get a higher seeding for the NCAA Tournament than Tennessee.

Vanderbilt is another matter. The Commodores (17-8, 7-4), like the Vols, must finish well to assure themselves a good seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Each time Vandy loses, Tennessee benefits. That's especially true if Vandy loses AT HOME.

The Commodores are unbeaten (5-0) in SEC home games. So are the Vols (6-0). Vanderbilt has the edge, however, because it is 2-4 in SEC road games, whereas UT is 0-5. If the Commodores win their three remaining home games, they can finish no worse than 10-6 in league play. To match that, Tennessee would have to win both of its remaining home games (Florida, Alabama) and win two of its three remaining road games (at South Carolina, at Arkansas, at Georgia). That's a tall order.

In a best-case scenario, Florida will beat Vanderbilt Saturday in Nashville and Tennessee will beat South Carolina Saturday in Columbia. A home loss would put the Commodores on pace to finish 9-7, assuming they win their remaining home games and lose their remaining road games. A road win would put the Vols on pace to finish 9-7, assuming they win their remaining home games and lose their remaining road games. (NOTE: SEC home teams have won 48 times this season, SEC road teams just 18 times.)

If both teams finish 9-7, the fact UT drubbed Vandy by 27 points last weekend surely would guarantee the Vols a higher NCAA Tournament seeding than the Commodores.

Another game of interest to Tennessee fans is the Kentucky-Alabama shootout in Tuscaloosa. Both teams are 18-6 overall but the Big Blue has a 7-4 SEC mark, whereas the Tide sports a mere 5-6 league record. If Bama could knock off the Wildcats that might help Tennessee move ahead of UK in the NCAA seedings derby.

Bottom line: If UT beats South Carolina, Florida beats Vandy and Alabama beats Kentucky, the Vols, Commodores and Wildcats will have matching 7-5 SEC records, second only to Florida's 12-0 mark in league play. That would give UT a good chance to be the second-highest seeded SEC team this March.

So, as unpleasant as it sounds, Tennessee fans should be yelling "Go Gators!" this Saturday afternoon. And probably "Go Tide!" as well.


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