2021-22 Bracketology, Vol. 2: where Tennessee stands, remaining scenarios, and possible draws

Well, no introduction needed here: it’s all summed up in the title. This post serves as a summary of where Tennessee is, what they could do, where they could go, and everything in between. Let’s get rolling.

Where does Tennessee stand at this moment?

Pretty well, I’d say. Tennessee came in as the 11th team in the Bracket Matrix consensus on Sunday (February 27), which was when I wrote this. Their average seed is 3.16, right behind Villanova and right ahead of Wisconsin. Bart Torvik’s TourneyCast gives them an 98% chance of at least a 4 seed and an 83% shot at a 3 or higher. You could be in a far worse position.

At the time of writing, Tennessee was 7-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents and a combined 14-0 against everyone else. For an idea of how this ranks, only 11 teams have 7 or more Quadrant 1 wins this year, and nine of those (Iowa State/Alabama excluded) are projected as 3 seeds or better. Tennessee has 12 combined Q1+Q2 wins, which is among the 12 best. They’re one of just seven teams in America that has not lost to a Quadrant 2, 3, or 4 opponent. That’s a heck of a resume that screams 3 seed or better.

I would agree with the general Torvik/analytics thought that Tennessee’s most likely seed, barring anything unusual, is a 3. I would rank the likelihood of each seed line as such: 3 > 2 >>> 1 >> 4.

Where do various scenarios have Tennessee seeded?

I’m keeping these really simple. There are only two scenarios worth discussing heading into the SEC Tournament: 2-0 or 1-1. 2-0 means you beat Arkansas; 1-1 means you don’t. Here’s what this would look like as of now. The S-curve rankings are the same, because as of this morning, Tennessee ranked 11th on both Torvik’s site and the general consensus.

2-0, 23-7, 14-4 SEC

Projected S-curve rank: 8th
Projected seed: 2

I struggle to believe this a little bit – I personally think Tennessee would still be a 3 seed, albeit higher than 11th. Still: you’re looking at a position where you enter the SEC Tournament no worse than a 3 seed and in a serious battle for the 2-line. Considering where everyone believed this season was going in January, that’s quite nice. Remind yourself that a 2-0 finish is the most likely scenario (68% odds of happening, per KenPom) and feel happy.

1-1, 22-8, 13-5 SEC

Projected S-curve rank: 11th
Projected seed: 3

Less ideal, but not destructive. The key thing here is that Tennessee would cede ground to Arkansas, but they have a significant resume gap between them and, say, Providence or UCLA. I think Tennessee would certainly be at risk of falling to a 4 depending on SEC Tournament output, though.

Who do you think Tennessee is most likely to draw?

I’m restricting this to the top 4 seeds surrounding Tennessee in a given bracket, because when you get down to 9 and 10 seeds it’s a little fraught. (I’ll still get to this shortly, just not in bracket format.) There are two main scenarios here that are covered, because Tennessee has two paths that encompass roughly 70% of possible outcomes: a 2 seed or a 3 seed. (Plus, this is already going to be a very long post.) Before we get into it, there are some key restrictions you must know.

  1. There’s a specific wording that is worth keeping in mind: “The committee will not compromise the principle of keeping the top four teams from the same conference in separate regions.” What this means is that Tennessee cannot draw Kentucky or Auburn within their region. They cannot draw Arkansas, either. Any SEC team Tennessee gets would be a 5 seed or lower, and even then, there are further restrictions. As such:
  2. You can’t draw a one-time opponent prior to the Round of 32, a two-time opponent prior to the Sweet Sixteen, or a three-time opponent prior to the Elite Eight. Unless they play them in the SEC Tournament, this indeed means Tennessee could draw Alabama in the second round, but it’s only if the committee cannot find a way to avoid that, which would be unlikely. For instance, Tennessee could end up a 3 seed and draw LSU as a 7 or something. Maybe they get Alabama as a 5, whatever. The point is that you likely won’t re-draw an SEC opponent unless multiple upsets happen.
  3. Non-conference rematches are to be avoided in the Round of 64. Meaning: Tennessee isn’t that likely to get any of their opponents as a 13/14/15/16 seed, but if UNC Greensboro or someone wins their conference, the committee would work hard to ensure that’s not Tennessee’s opponent.

So! Now you know.

If Tennessee is a 2 seed…

Potential seed line opponents, per the latest Bracket Matrix consensus:

  • 1 line: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas
  • 3 line: Duke, Texas Tech, Villanova, Wisconsin
  • 4 line: Providence, UCLA, Illinois, Connecticut

A path does exist where Tennessee has to go through multiple previous opponents to make the Final Four. I would imagine the Committee probably tries to avoid that wherever possible. For the purpose of our guesswork here, we’re placing Tennessee as the final 2 seed and bumping Duke (the current final 2 seed) to a 3. Seeing as there’s no direct S-curve conflicts, Tennessee would then likely draw Gonzaga as their 1 seed. Not great! But it’s there.

Tennessee would then most likely draw Duke as their 3 seed, as they’re next on the seed list. After that, the current final 4 seed (16th overall) is Connecticut, who would be the 4. That was deceptively easy. As a whole, this scenario would only require a couple of seed list switches. This would be your top four and their respective regions:

  • West: Gonzaga, Tennessee, Duke, UConn
  • South: Arizona, Purdue, Texas Tech, Providence
  • Midwest: Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, Illinois
  • East: Auburn, Baylor, Wisconsin, UCLA

If Tennessee is a 3 seed…

Potential seed line opponents, per the latest Bracket Matrix consensus:

  • 1 line: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas
  • 2 line: Baylor, Purdue, Duke
  • 4 line: Providence, UCLA, Illinois, Connecticut

Not much really changes here, but let’s say that Tennessee stays precisely where they’re at: the 11th-team on the seed list, the third-highest three seed. You still can’t play Auburn or Kentucky at any seed line, so disregard both.

We’re assuming this goes in order of what it currently says: Gonzaga-Arizona-Kansas-Auburn/Baylor for your 1 seeds. If you want Baylor ahead of Auburn, sure, doesn’t really change much. It then goes (in order of opponent associated with above) Duke-Purdue-Kentucky-Baylor/Auburn. What this means is:

  • Texas Tech cannot be in the Auburn/Baylor region or the Kansas region.
  • Wisconsin (the final three seed) cannot be in the Arizona region.
  • Tennessee cannot be in the Auburn/Baylor region or the Kansas region (due to Kentucky as the 2).

This leaves two options for Tennessee: either Gonzaga’s region or Arizona’s. It does the same for Texas Tech. (Villanova has no restrictions and can go wherever.) By following the seeding order, Texas Tech would go to Gonzaga’s region, as they have no conflicts with either Gonzaga or Duke. Tennessee would then only have one possibility left: the Arizona region, where they would have to beat Purdue to make the Elite Eight. (Villanova would then filter into the Kansas/Kentucky region, followed by Wisconsin to Auburn/Baylor.)

Here’s your respective regions:

  • West: Gonzaga, Duke, Texas Tech, Connecticut
  • South: Arizona, Purdue, Tennessee, Providence
  • Midwest: Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, Illinois
  • East: Auburn, Baylor, Wisconsin, UCLA

What are the seeds you most want in your bracket?

Instead of doing the usual good/bad draw thing, just use this as a general basis for Selection Sunday. I’ll re-edit it on that particular Sunday, but I guess you can take this as a loose guide to monitor over the next 13 days. I’m waiting to do the back half of this (AKA, the 12-16 seeds and all 9-11s) until conference tournament season ends.

  • 1 seeds: I’m loosely taking the top six Matrix teams as potential 1 seeds. Purdue or Duke could reasonably rise to a 1, but it seems unlikely. Anyway, of the teams you actually can draw, Tennessee wants Kansas (#6 overall in KenPom) as their 1. By a hair, they’re the lowest-rated 1. Really, as long as it isn’t Gonzaga (#1 overall by five full points), it’s not a bad draw.
  • 2 seeds: Wide range of potential draws here: anyone from Kansas to Villanova could potentially be your pick. Either way, there is an obvious desire here: Purdue (#13 overall), who has the nation’s best offense but its 106th-best defense.
  • 3 seeds: From here on, we’re just going with “has an average seed from 3.0-4.0” or similar. That gives you exactly two options to pick from for a 3, and the one you clearly want is Wisconsin (#26 overall), who would be the lowest-rated KenPom 3 seed since #28 Utah in 2015-16, a team that lost in the Round of 32.
  • 4 seeds: Providence (#38 overall). Obviously.
  • 5 seeds: No great options here, as two of them are SEC schools and the other two are ranked 14th and 21st by KenPom. If you have to pick one, Ohio State (#21 overall) has an 87th-ranked defense.
  • 6 seeds: If you want a bad one because you’re the 3, USC (#33 overall) is the obvious pick, a team that is 25-4 but has awful metrics to go with it and plays in a mediocre conference. If you want a good one because you’re the 2, Saint Mary’s (#16 overall), is going to almost certainly be underseeded.
  • 7 seeds: If you’re the 3 and you want a good one, Iowa (#15 overall) is…well, your pick. I don’t actually like it, because Tennessee is just four spots ahead of Iowa, but if you get to the Sweet Sixteen and it’s a 7 seed standing between you and the Elite Eight, you take what you can get. If you’re the 2 and you want a lesser 7: Marquette (#37 overall) is playing more like a 9/10.
  • 8 seeds: If you’re a 2 or 3 and you want the best possible 8 seed to knock out your 1, you can’t go wrong with either Boise State (#25 overall) or Murray State (#27 overall), two mid-majors who are white-hot and probably deserve better seeds. If you’re the 1 seed, you want an easier path, so you’d want…uh, Iowa State (#31 overall)? No truly bad options here at the moment, but Iowa State is #119 in offense.

Where will Tennessee be headed for the first two rounds?

Bear with me here, as it’s a complicated affair. This one was requested by a message board user, and to be frank, I can more easily explain this than I can regional possibilities. (Because Tennessee likely won’t be a 1 seed, there’s a lot of factors that go into which of the four regions they’ll eventually call home.) This year, for teams in Southeastern states, the pickings are slim: only Greenville, South Carolina offers a site that’s close to any SEC school. Indianapolis, a 5.5-hour drive from Knoxville, is second-closest.

The best way of explaining this is to offer a description of all eight sites, along with which teams are closest to them. What I’m doing is taking the top 24 teams in Bracket Matrix as of this morning and simply seeing which schools are within 500 miles of each site. (It’s just a big round number, don’t read too deeply into it.) Of the eight first and second-round sites, this is what we’re looking at. An important note for someone, surely: these are point-to-point miles, not driving distance. Why? Well, you try doing this in Google Maps 200 times.

Teams Within 500 Miles of a Site, Per a Website My Brother Sent Me

  • Buffalo, NY (Thu/Sat): Kentucky (440 miles), Purdue (447), Duke (476), Villanova (280), Providence (388), Connecticut (193), Ohio State (290)
  • Fort Worth, TX (Thu/Sat): Kansas (445), Baylor (83), Texas Tech (269), Houston (236), Texas (174), Arkansas (292)
  • Indianapolis, IN (Thu/Sat): Kansas (488), Auburn (496), Kentucky (148), Purdue (62), Duke (474), Tennessee (290), Wisconsin (286), Illinois (113), Ohio State (168), Alabama (435)
  • Portland, OR (Thu/Sat): Gonzaga (294)
  • Greenville, SC (Fri/Sun): Auburn (235), Kentucky (251), Purdue (459), Duke (213), Tennessee (115), Ohio State (355), Alabama (271)
  • Milwaukee, WI (Fri/Sun): Kansas (474), Kentucky (386), Purdue (186), Wisconsin (76), Illinois (203), Ohio State (327)
  • Pittsburgh, PA (Fri/Sun): Kentucky (289), Purdue (364), Duke (330), Villanova (256), Tennessee (376), Illinois (435), Providence (457), Connecticut (236), Ohio State (161)
  • San Diego, CA (Fri/Sun): Arizona (361), UCLA (112), USC (112), Saint Mary’s (CA) (451)

Here’s why all of this information is at least mildly useful.

  1. As of now, Gonzaga is 98% likely to be a 1 seed, per Torvik. We can lock them in for Portland, the only location with 300 miles of Spokane.
  2. You can fill in the blanks for a few of these locations by way of small packs to pick from. Each location gets two top 16 teams each. Without a single controversial decision, you could make the following set before we endure some tougher picks. This sets seven of the top 16 without much sweat.
    • Buffalo: Villanova
    • Fort Worth: Baylor, Kansas (their closest possible destination)
    • Indianapolis:
    • Portland: Gonzaga
    • Greenville:
    • Milwaukee: Wisconsin
    • Pittsburgh:
    • San Diego: Arizona, UCLA
  3. Process of elimination can fill in the rest. Here’s what I’ve arrived at, if literally nothing changes:
  • Buffalo: Villanova, Providence
  • Fort Worth: Baylor, Kansas
  • Indianapolis: Kentucky, Purdue
  • Portland: Gonzaga, Texas Tech
  • Greenville: Auburn, Duke
  • Milwaukee: Wisconsin, Illinois
  • Pittsburgh: Tennessee, Connecticut
  • San Diego: Arizona, UCLA

Many things will change. Here’s my rationale for each location:

  • Buffalo: Of the likely top-16 seeds (I’d argue everyone from 11th-place Tennessee on up is no worse than a 4 seed at season’s end), only Villanova is within 400 miles of this location. They’re an obvious pick. The ticket office is likely hoping UConn (193 miles away, big fanbase) is here, too, but Providence was ahead of them on the seed list.
  • Fort Worth: Baylor is 83 miles away. Kansas is not within 400 miles of any location this year, but this is the closest one and in Big 12 country. Unfortunately, this locks out Texas Tech of its only sub-500 mile location that’s available. If they finish ahead of either team in the seed curve or if Kansas elects to take Indianapolis or Milwaukee, they could very well be here instead.
  • Indianapolis: This is no worse than a three-hour drive for Kentucky fans, who travel in droves. Technically, Illinois is only 113 miles away, and Tennessee and Wisconsin are close too. However: Wisconsin has a closer site that they’ll be a top pick for. Tennessee’s only realistic path to Indianapolis is if Purdue is, uh, “selected” (AKA, the AD asks for it) to go to Milwaukee instead.
  • Portland: Gonzaga is the only team close at all to this location. I could reasonably see UCLA being shuffled here to make room for Texas Tech in Los Angeles, which is closer than Portland, but someone is going to get screwed. Happens every year.
  • Greenville: Assuming Kentucky picks Indianapolis, this is basically a two-out-of-three battle between Auburn, Duke, and Tennessee. If Tennessee is ahead of any one of those three teams, they will be in Greenville. Someone has to lose out, though. The most likely combination with Tennessee in it is Auburn/Tennessee, because this is Auburn’s closest location by some distance and Duke can pivot to Pittsburgh, which is two extra hours away.
  • Milwaukee: Again, Wisconsin (76 miles away) seems like a lock as long as they don’t blow a top-4 seed in the next two weeks. The next pick is more interesting. If Kansas pivots to Milwaukee to make room for Texas Tech in Fort Worth (which I wouldn’t really understand), that means Illinois gets sent to the West Coast. Alternately, if Purdue picks Milwaukee over Indianapolis, that sets off a chain of events that would also end up with Illinois on the West Coast.
  • Pittsburgh: This one is a mess. Seven of the Matrix’s top 19 teams are within a 400-mile drive of this city. You have to make a few assumptions to make it work: Kentucky’s out, Villanova’s out, Purdue’s out, and UConn/Ohio State may get there but possibly not as top-4 seeds. That leaves Duke and Tennessee, one of whom would be in Greenville already. Unless UConn stays at the 4 line, the other team here is a 4 seed that has nowhere else to go.
  • San Diego: Blissfully simple: Arizona’s closest location, as is UCLA’s. The only potential drama here is if UCLA gets shuffled up to Portland (826 miles) to make room for Texas Tech in San Diego (887), which may happen anyway if UCLA falls to a 5 or 6 seed.

How does the mess you typed out affect Tennessee?

Assuming no major outliers or overly weird events, I would rank Tennessee’s most likely locations as follows:

  1. Pittsburgh (45%)
  2. Greenville (30%)
  3. Indianapolis (15%)
  4. Randomizer (somehow losing out on all three, because Selection Committee) (10%)

The top two of those are Friday/Sunday locations, so I guess I’m saying Tennessee is looking at an ~80% shot of playing Friday/Sunday. Plan accordingly.

What time of day is Tennessee going to play?

Can’t really help you here. There’s a lot of different things that would go into this: which location you’re at, who else is in your ‘pod’, what crowd you’re expected to bring, if you’re paired with a West Coast team, etc. Not much really ends up being surprising about a tip time, really. The only thing you can expect is that games with 11/12-seed First Four teams are generally (but not always) later games on their given days due to the extra travel from Dayton. If Tennessee ends up a 3 seed in a pod where an 11 seed is headed from the First Four, that 6/11 game would be played no earlier than 3 PM Eastern and more likely would be something like a 9:30 PM tip, giving Tennessee the 7 PM ET game.

But yeah, other than that, not much I can tell you. Here’s Tennessee’s tip times since the field expanded to 68:

  • 4:30 PM ET (2021)
  • 3 PM ET (2019)
  • 12:40 PM ET (2018)
  • 2:45 PM ET (2014)
  • 12:40 PM ET (2011)

That’s five consecutive daytime tips in a row. A fair(ish) Selection Committee and TV crew would give Tennessee an evening slot, but they could’ve done that after three or four in a row, too. My recommendation is to not be surprised by anything that happens.

More questions? Concerns? Email statsbywill@gmail.com with the subject line “Ham Sanitizer”.

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