No. 3 Tennessee will face No. 14 Longwood on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. EST in the first round of the South Region of the NCAA Tournament. The match will be televised by CBS.
No. 6 Colorado State and No. 11 Michigan tipoff at 12:15 p.m. ET Thursday, opposite Tennessee and Longwood for opening weekend. If the Vols move on to the second weekend, they will play in San Antonio.
“Wherever they put us, we’ll go,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Sunday after Tennessee defeated Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament Championship Game at Amalie Arena. “I have to be ready to play, and again, I’m happy for our guys, and we’ll see what happens in the future.
“We have a new season starting again. We have to be ready.
Arizona is the No. 1 seed in the South Region after winning the regular season and Pac 12 tournament championships. The Vols beat the Wildcats 77-72 in Knoxville on Dec. 22.
Villanova, who beat Tennessee 71-53 in November at neutral ground in Connecticut, is the second seed. Illinois is No. 4, facing No. 13 Chattanooga on the Arizona side.
Ohio State is the No. 7 seed, facing No. 10 Loyola-Chicago on Tennessee’s half of the Southern Region bracket.
The Vols (26-7), after winning three games in three days to claim the SEC Tournament title, have won 15 of their last 16 games, including seven in a row.
Tennessee has cruised through Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M on its way to the first conference tournament title since 1979 and only the fifth in program history, dating back to the first SEC tournament held in 1933.
Going into Sunday, the Vols were a No. 3 seed by most bracketology projections, with the possibility of moving to a No. 2 seed, even with a win over A&M, looking unlikely.
Rick Barnes said Sunday afternoon after the 65-50 win over the Aggies that any team in the SEC’s top four — Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky or Arkansas — that won the conference tournament deserved a seed. #1, reiterating what he said earlier in the week.
“If one of the top four teams wins the tournament, they should be in one line,” Barnes said. ” I said that. I think our league is the best in the country, so I learned a long time ago that you can talk. You’re not going to make politics about it because I can say what I want to say.
Tennessee was a No. 2 seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, losing to No. 3 Purdue in overtime in the Sweet Sixteen after wins over No. 14 Colgate and No. 11 Iowa.
The Vols were seeded No. 3 once, in 2018, going 1-1 before falling to Loyola-Chicago, after beating Wright State in the first round.
They were a No. 5 seed a year ago, before being knocked out by the No. 12 seed and the Oregon State Elite Eight.
Through Saturday, Tennessee was 10-7 in Quad 1 games and 15-0 in Quad 2, 3 and 4 games. The Vols were No. 8 in the NET rankings, with their worst NET loss of the season Dec. 29 at Alabama in the SEC’s opener.
“It’s the best basketball league in the country,” Barnes said. “…I said that in a good year we should have seven teams. In a good year, eight or nine.
“Again, I don’t care who you play. It was not an easy match.