It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: SEC Tournament Preview 2023
Last Time Out: Tennessee dropped their season finale at Auburn on Saturday, 70-79.
Previously on Vols in the SEC Championship: UT won the 2022 SEC Tournament, beating Mississippi St., Kentucky, and Texas A&M. It was the first SEC Tourney win for the Vols since 1978.
Who To Watch: Tennessee enters the 2023 SEC Basketball Tournament as the #5 seed. Can they find a way to consistently perform they way they did against teams like Kansas, Texas, and Alabama this year? Or will they struggle like they did in games against Vanderbilt, Missouri, and both Kentucky games?
There is an argument to be made for kinda hoping the team bows out early--they could certainly use the rest, and trying to win four games in four days sounds somewhat quixotic. It's unlikely that the result of this tournament will change UT's NCAA seed at this point. And of course, they have to face this grind without Zakai Zeigler.
But there's the rub. Tennessee in a post-ZZ world is still an experiment, and they need more time in the lab. The bracket actually sets up pretty well for the Vols, too. A game against the Ole Miss-South Carolina winner Thursday would set up a revenge tour game against Mizzou on Friday. The likely Saturday opponent would be Alabama. The progression of difficulty would be a nice litmus test for what UT might face over the next couple of weeks.
Prediction: Both Vegas and Ken Pomeroy have Tennessee as the second-most likely team to win this tournament, and kenpom also has Tennessee at second-most likely to make the championship game. Unfortunately the team most likely to overtake the Vols in both scenarios is on UT's side of the bracket: Alabama. I think it's likely the weekend plays out just like that: Tennessee wins on Thursday and Friday before falling to the Crimson Tide on Saturday.