All About Seeding

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is done talking about the fourth-ranked Volunteers' Southeastern Conference regular season championship.

Next objective?

"What is this game about? This game is about seeding," Pearl said of Sunday's game against South Carolina. "It has nothing to do with the SEC race anymore because that's done. It's about the difference between being a one-seed and a two-seed."

Tennessee (27-3, 13-2 SEC) clinched its first outright SEC season title since 1967 with an 89-86 win over Florida Wednesday night.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Tennessee –16.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee –16.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

The Vols, who have been atop the RPI rankings all season, have a shot at a top seed in the NCAA tournament with a win over the Gamecocks and a strong showing in the SEC tournament.

Pearl gave the players a day off on Thursday and said the Vols were extremely focused on closing out the season right when they returned to the practice court.

"Every game from this point forward is about our ability to get to the Final Four," he said. "This game against South Carolina is to enhance our chances of getting to the Final Four."

The Gamecocks (13-16, 5-10) have more SEC wins on the road than at home. They're looking to avenge an 80-56 drubbing to the Vols in January - the team's worst loss to Tennessee at home.

Less than a week after the loss, coach Dave Odom announced he would retire at the end of the season, after averaging over 18 wins in seven seasons with the Gamecocks.

Although South Carolina has just one win in SEC East play, sophomore guard Devan Downey is third in the conference in scoring.

Tennessee opponents commit an average of nearly 19 turnovers per game - a stat the Vols always use to their advantage - but South Carolina commits 10.5 per game, the fifth lowest average in the nation.

"South Carolina is a dangerous team," Pearl said. "They'll always have four guys on the floor that can shoot the 3-ball, and with it being Dave Odom's last regular season game, there's no doubt that their kids will be inspired."

Sunday also marks senior day for Tennessee's Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Jordan Howell. The three were part of a team that went 14-17 in 2004-05 under former coach Buzz Peterson.

"Four years ago it wasn't popular to be a part of the Tennessee basketball team. People kind of laughed at us on campus," Howell said. "Along with Chris and JaJuan, I'm proud of being part of the group that changed the way Tennessee basketball was perceived.

"That's what I'm going to remember most. Being on a team that didn't make the NIT Tournament and the next year (2006) getting the No. 2 seed."

Pearl, who usually does not hide his sentiments, said the game will be an opportunity for the fans to thank the three.

But Pearl is saving his farewells for a later date.

"I think there's so much basketball left to play. If this was it - that would be one thing. But this is not it," he said. "We've got a whole season left to play."

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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