Buzz is making his pitch

If Tennessee doesn't make the field for this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament, it won't be because head coach Buzz Peterson didn't lobby hard enough.

Peterson believes the Vols are worthy of a bid, whether they win or lose Friday night vs. Auburn in the SEC Tournament, and he's working hard to convey that message to the NCAA Selection Committee.

''We won 10 games against top-100 oppponents,'' Peterson said. ''Only 20 other teams in the NCAA won that many. We won four against the top 50 and three against the top 25 (Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State). Kansas only won four against top-50 teams.''

The Vol coach went on to note that Tennessee nearly beat Louisville and ''played Kentucky about as tough as anybody did.''

As a result, Peterson thinks the Selection Committee should look beyond the Vols' 17-10 overall record, their 9-7 SEC mark and their No. 50 RPI when deciding whether or not to extend a bid.

''What this team has accomplished -- winning some big ballgames this year -- I'm sure that's of interest to the committee,'' the Vol coach said.

Another factor that may boost Tennessee's chances of getting a bid is the presence of Ron Slay, one of the most colorful players in college basketball.

''That helps,'' Peterson said. ''That's a marquee player, and that's a player TV likes. Ron's a player people will come out to watch, one they'll watch on TV. When you have a marquee player like that, it's something that's very valuable to the committee.''

If Tennessee beats Auburn Friday night, the Vols should be a lock for a tourney bid. In the meantime, Peterson is doing some unabashed lobbying, just in case ...

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