By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee Volunteers ended a 43-year SEC Tournament drought Sunday, defeating Texas A&M 65-50 in Tampa, Florida and clinching a number three seed in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll be heading to Indianapolis for a game Thursday against 14th seeded Longwood. They will be 17-point favorites in that one. Should they win, their next game would be against the winner of the game matching sixth seed Colorado State and 11th seeded Michigan. The Vols have never reached the Final Four and have only made the Elite Eight once, but their path on paper looks easier this time.
Tennessee jumped in front of Texas A&M 14-0 early, and was never in trouble. They had three double-digit scorers led by Santiago Vescovi with 17, Josiah-Jordan James with 16 and Kennedy Chandler with 14.Tennessee made 43 percent of their three-point shots, with Vescovi, James and Chandler combining for 12 of the team’s 13. Tennessee is now 26-7 and the number three seed is the second time they begin an NCAA Tournament seeded that high.
The Lady Vols earned a number four NCAA seed and will host 13th seeded Buffalo in Knoxville Saturday. The Lady Vols are hosting the first two rounds of the Wichita Region. Belmont’s Lady Bruins are in that same regional and are seeded 12th. If Belmont wins its opening game against fifth seeded Oregon and Tennessee defeats Buffalo, these two teams would meet Monday. The Lady Vols are the only women’s team to compete in all 40 NCAA women’s Tournaments. This year’s event has been expanded to 68 teams,
The Memphis Tigers and Chattanooga Mocs are other state teams in the men’s field, while Jackson State’s Lady Tigers won the SWAC women’s title and are seeded 14th. They face third seeded LSU in a first round game in Spokane.
The NIT will include a marquee local game as Vanderbilt, seeded fourth, hosts Belmont Tuesday.