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Tennessee continues slow climb to at-large consideration

Vanderbilt Tennessee Basketball

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) defends against Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, March 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Adam Brimer)


Tennessee is determined to play its way into NCAA tournament consideration.

When coach Cuonzo Martin said last month that if the Vols reached 10 SEC victories, they’d be deserving of NCAA tournament consideration, it seemed like he was dreaming. The possibility of 10 conference wins was there, but why would a team one game over .500 be able to pull it off?

Well, the Vols held off Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon to finish the regular-season 18-14 overall and 10-6 in the SEC. Neither win threshold guarantees anything in terms of their at-large id hopes, but they certainly don’t hurt. (What hurts are those losses to Austin Peay and Charleston.)

The Vols’ overall profile is behind other at-large hopefuls such as Washington, Colorado State and West Virginia. But this is a surging team – they’ve won eight of their last nine – and is 10-5 since freshman Jarnell Stokes joined the team. Both are decent considerations for the NCAA seeding committee.

But there’s little doubt Tennessee needs more wins. The SEC tournament next week is the last chance and the Vols might have to beat No. 1 Kentucky to add two more victories to the résumé. That’s a tall order.

Then again, if they beat Kentucky, they won’t need any more wins. Sounds easy right?

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.